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May 12, 2020

U.S. District Court Issues Limited Injunction of 2019 BiOps

Earlier this year, several lawsuits were filed against the Trump Administration’s biological opinions (BiOps) governing operations of the Delta pumps, including one by the state of California and another by a coalition of six environmental organizations. 

Both sets of plaintiffs filed motions for preliminary injunction, which would effectively revert Delta pump operations back to the more restrictive Obama-era BiOps.

A U.S. district court judge has issued an order granting in part, and denying in part, the motion for a preliminary injunction, while holding some aspects in abeyance.

First, the court granted the State’s motion for preliminary injunction with regard to the Calif. Central Valley steelhead, concluding that the Trump Administration’s LTO may irreparably harm the threatened species during the period from May 11 to May 31. This will limit the operations of the Delta pumps per the Obama-era BiOps, but only for the remainder of the month.

The court denied the State’s motion in all other respects as having been rendered moot by this order, and did not address the harm to Delta smelt, longfin smelt or salmon. Furthermore, the court found that the State failed to prove that injunctive relief was needed beyond May.

The court also denied the environmental coalition’s request to enjoin operations on the Stanislaus River as moot, and held all other aspects of the environmental coalition’s motion in abeyance with the understanding that the court intends to issue a separate order in the near future.

Click here to read the full text of the order.


Last year, the Trump Administration – National Marine Fisheries Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation – issued a pair of BiOps updating Reclamation’s plan for the long-term operation of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. Significantly, the 2019 BiOps provided for additional flexibility in when the Delta pumps could be operated, while also providing for additional habitat restoration and endangered species protection measures.