Supreme Court won’t hear case on endangered California fish

The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear a legal challenge to the federal government’s attempts to protect a fish native to California.

A group of farmers near the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta had asked the justices to overturn the Fish and Wildlife Service’s restrictions on pumping water from the waterways.

In refusing to take the case, the court let stand a lower ruling in favor of the regulators, who set the limits in 2008 to protect the Delta smelt, a small fish. As usual, the justices did not give any explanation for their decision.

“Today’s decision is good news for the thousands of fishermen, [Sacramento-San Joaquin] Delta farmers, and everyone who depends on the health of California’s Bay-Delta estuary and its native fisheries and wildlife,” Kate Poole, litigation director for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) water program, said in a statement.

“After six years of hard fought litigation, today’s court decision ends debate over the validity of these protections,” she said.

NRDC and other environmental groups had participated in the court fight in support of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a conservative law firm, fought for agricultural interests in the case.

James Burling, PLF’s director of litigation, said his group was disappointed in the court’s decision.

“These regulations have harmed farmers and farm workers in the Central Valley, along with tens of millions of southern Californians, by diverting vast quantities of water away from human use and out to the Pacific Ocean — all to try to improve the habitat of the Delta smelt, a three-inch fish on the Endangered Species Act list,” he said in a statement.

“As a result, hundreds of thousands of acres of once-productive farmland have been idled, farm workers have lost their jobs, and farmers are losing their farms.”