NANFA-- Sacramento splittail news

Christopher Scharpf (
Tue, 23 Jan 2001 15:33:14 -0400

January 12, 2001

SACRAMENTO, Calif­Responding to a court order, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service today announced the reopening of the comment period regarding the
threatened status for the Sacramento splittail, a fish found only in streams in
California's Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Central Valley. Under the
Endangered Species Act, the splittail was listed as threatened on February 8,
1999. A species is designated as threatened when it is likely to become an
endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant
portion of its range.

The Service initially proposed to list the splittail as threatened in January
1994 and requested public comment. After an additional comment period and a
year-long moratorium on listing actions, the Service again opened the comment
period on May 18, 1998. On May 29, 1998, the Southwest Center for Biological
Diversity filed a suit in federal court (Southern District of California)
alleging that the Service had failed to make a final determination on the
listing in a timely manner and had failed to designate critical habitat. As a
result of this suit, the court ordered the Service to publish a final rule on
the splittail by February 1, 1999. Subsequently, the Service listed the
splittail as threatened. After the listing, the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water
Authority and the State Water Contractors sued the Service, alleging that the
Service failed to use the best scientific and commercial data available. The
court (Eastern District of California) found in favor of the plaintiffs and
ordered the Service to reevaluate the listing determination by March 22, 2001.

A silvery-gold member of the minnow family, the splittail can grow up to 16
inches long and live up to 7 years. The upper part of the tail is enlarged and
appears to be split, hence its common name. Historically, the splittail occurred
in the Sacramento River as far north as Redding, as far south in the San Joaquin
River as Friant Dam near Fresno, and as far west as the Petaluma River.

Splittail populations have declined 33 percent in the last 20 years as dams and
diversions prevented fish from access to upstream areas of large rivers.
Reclamation and modification of flood basins also have reduced the speciesı
spawning grounds. Today, the Sacramento splittail is largely restricted to the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Suisun Bay and Suisun and Napa marshes.

"The Service is seeking information on the splittailıs status, abundance and
distribution," said Wayne White, Field Supervisor for the Sacramento Fish and
Wildlife Office. " In addition, we are seeking input on the relationship between
the data available and the listing of the species as threatened. We are also
taking comments on the threats and on the measures that may reduce those
threats, as well as on the information previously submitted by the California
Department of Fish and Game and Department of Water Resources."

The Service also would like comments on how the CALFED program will address
threats to the splittail. The CALFED Program is a long-term comprehensive plan
to restore ecosystems and improve water management for beneficial uses of the
San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Several components of
the CALFED Program will influence the status of the splittail, including the
Ecosystem Restoration Program Plan, the Multi-Species Conservation Strategy, the
Water Quality Program Plan and an Environmental Water Account. The Ecosystem
Restoration Program Plan and Multi-Species Conservation Strategy identify
recovery goals for 44 species in the Bay-Delta region, including a goal to
"recover" the splittail.

In addition, the Service is seeking comment on implementation of the Central
Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) because CVPIA provisions potentially can
affect threats to the splittail. The CVPIA amends previous authorizations of the
Central Valley Project to include fish and wildlife protection, restoration and
mitigation as project purposes having equal priority with irrigation and
domestic water supply, and fish and wildlife enhancement having equal priority
with power generation. Provisions of the CVPIA to benefit fish and wildlife
habitat include such programs as protection and restoration of natural channel,
riparian and wetland habitats; removal of fish migration barriers and screening
of water diversions.

The Service welcomes comments on these issues until February 12, 2001.
Information should be sent to the Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife
Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2800 Cottage Way, Suite W-2605,
Sacramento, California 95825. Comments and materials received will be available
for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above

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