Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Judge denies immediate sweeping change to Deschutes water (Oregon spotted frog)

A federal judge presiding over a case that could alter the way water is managed in Central Oregon said Tuesday she wouldn’t grant immediate changes to water management in the Deschutes River basin, as a pair of environmental groups had sought. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken made clear during oral arguments in two cases filed in recent months that she prefers groups work together to protect the threatened Oregon spotted frog at the center of litigation. Aiken said she wouldn’t rule in favor of two groups seeking an immediate injunction this month that would have required three local irrigation districts to release water from their reservoirs, which farmers said could have been devastating, particularly in the North Unit Irrigation District in Jefferson County. “I’m going to deny” the motion, Aiken said. “That’s my opinion at this point.” Aiken said she would file her written opinion ruling against WaterWatch of Oregon and the Center for Biological Diversity, which asked for a preliminary injunction to change the water storage practices in the Wickiup and Crane Prairie reservoirs and Crescent Lake starting April 1. The environmental groups filed two similar suits in U.S. District Court in Eugene, seeking changes to how the North Unit, Tumalo and Central Oregon irrigation districts and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation store Deschutes River water in winter and release it in summer months. They said the practice of collecting the water in local reservoirs in winter and releasing it in summer creates unnatural river flow changes that harm the Oregon spotted frog, a brownish-red amphibian the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed as threatened in August 2014...more

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