In addition to Fish and Wildlife Service’s misquotes and misrepresentations of recent studies of Santa Ana River flows and the Santa Ana Sucker, water agency officials are deeply concerned about the Service’s lack of cooperation with state and local agencies in managing inland water resources, as required by the Endangered Species Act. “This is very disappointing,” commented Headrick, “especially in a watershed that is otherwise known for its exemplary collaboration among all government agencies involved in water.”

Water agencies reminded the Fish and Wildlife Service that the Endangered Species Act requires the Service to “ ‘cooperate with state and local agencies’ in resolving potential conflicts between the needs of endangered species and the state’s management of their water resources.”

However, prior to adopting its “Final Rule” designating an expanded critical habitat area for the Sucker, the Service merely provided state and local agencies an opportunity to submit written comments, which the Service then generally did not incorporate into the Final Rule.

Water agencies told the Service, for example, that the California Water Resources Control Board specifically considered and rejected mandating the release of water from Seven Oaks Dam to provide habitat for the Sucker and other native fishes. The Service, however, did not point to any flaw in the State Water Board’s reasoning or any data that might alter the State Water Board’s conclusions.

The 60-day notice contains numerous other examples of information that the agencies provided to the Service that ultimately was not considered or addressed in its Final Rule.

Inland communities and water agencies also objected, in their 60-day notice letter, to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s attempts to override a 2009 decision by the California State Water Resources Control Board to grant San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water and Western Municipal Water District the right to capture previously unallocated stormwater runoff from the San Bernardino Mountains and use it for groundwater recharge, storage and direct delivery to inland water agencies.

Inland water agencies served Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials with formal notice of their intent to file suit this morning. Public agencies are required by law to provide the federal government with 60 days notice if they plan to name a federal agency in a lawsuit. In theory, the requirement gives government agencies a chance to address potential conflicts so that a lawsuit ultimately does not have to be filed.

Agencies that co-signed that 60-notice include Bear Valley Mutual Water Company in Redlands; Big Bear Municipal Water District in Big Bear Lake; City of Redlands; City of Riverside Public Utilities; City of San Bernardino Municipal Water Department; East Valley Water District in Highland; Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District; San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District; San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District; Western Municipal Water District in Riverside; West Valley Water District in Rialto; and Yucaipa Valley Water District.