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Appeals Court upholds delta smelt protections

March 25, 2011 |  1:47 pm


A federal appeals court has upheld the constitutionality of Endangered Species Act protections for the Delta smelt, rejecting claims by a conservative legal organization.

In an opinion released Friday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling in favor of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which has restricted water deliveries from Northern California to stave off the smelt’s extinction.

The Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation, representing several San Joaquin Valley nut growers, argued that the Endangered Species Act did not apply to the smelt because it lives only in California, has no commercial value and therefore was outside of congressional authority under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The 9th Circuit agreed with the lower court, finding that the smelt protections were valid because they were related to commerce.

The case is one in a series of lawsuits that have been filed in a tangled legal battle over the effect of environmental regulations on water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.


A small fish caught in a big fuss          

--Bettina Boxall

Photo: The delta smelt. Credit: UC Davis