Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
AP

Lawsuit looms over tiny rare fish in drought-stricken West

  • Updated
  • 0
Rare Fish Western Drought

FILE - A bucket of least chub are released at Darwin Bundy's property in Fairfield, Utah, on Nov. 19, 2013. Conservationists have notified U.S. wildlife officials they're going to sue over illegal delays in decisions on protections sought for rare fish species in Nevada and Utah threatened by past and future groundwater-pumping proposed in the drought-stricken West. The Center for Biological Diversity sent the formal notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, over the Fish Lake Valley tui chub near the California-Nevada line and the least chub in southwest Utah.

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Conservationists have notified U.S. wildlife officials that they will sue over delinquent decisions related to protections for two rare fish species that are threatened by groundwater pumping in the drought-stricken West.

The Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service last week over the Fish Lake Valley tui chub near the California-Nevada line and the least chub in southwest Utah.

Utah and Nevada are the driest states in the country, and the planned lawsuits are among the many fronts on which conservationists are battling water districts and the users they cater to over plans to siphon water to either maintain or expand consumption.

The outcome of the court fights will likely have major implications for states' parched valleys and the people and species that inhabit them.

The group seeking federal listings under the Endangered Species Act says the high-desert springs where the minnows live are threatened by water allocations for traditional agricultural use as well as urban development plans.

The Fish and Wildlife Service belatedly concluded in August there was enough evidence the tui chub in Nevada was at risk of extinction — primarily due to over-pumping of water for farms and ranches — to warrant a yearlong review to determine if it should be listed.

The so-called 90-day finding had been due in June 2021, three months after the center petitioned for the listing. The center also noted in its Nov. 15 letter to the agency that the yearlong review should have been done in March.

“The Fish Lake Valley tui chub is staring extinction in the face because of the catastrophic overuse of groundwater in its native range,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Service spokesperson Laury Marshall said in an email Wednesday to The Associated Press that the agency doesn't comment on litigation. Agency officials referred AP to the August finding that concluded the initial listing petition “presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the Fish Lake Valley tui chub as an endangered or threatened species may be warranted.”

The only place in the world that the 5-inch-long, olive-colored tui chub still exists is in a basin in Esmeralda County between Reno and Las Vegas.

Lake Valley’s groundwater levels have declined as much as 2.5 feet (76 centimeters) per year over the past half-century, causing a cumulative drawdown of more than 75 feet (23 meters) since 1973, the listing petition said.

Donnelly said active geothermal leases and lithium claims nearby, if developed, also could put the springs at risk.

In Utah, more than half the remaining wild populations of the least chub are jeopardized by proposed groundwater pumping to support growth in Cedar City, about 170 miles (270 kilometers) northeast of Las Vegas.

The group petitioned to list that 2-inch-long, gold-colored minnow in September 2021, citing threats posed by the Pine Valley Water Supply Project. An initial finding and 12-month review for that species also are past due, the group said.

Once widely distributed in Utah’s Bonneville Basin, the least chub has only seven remaining wild populations and about a dozen refuge populations where it's been reintroduced.

“Significant habitat loss and alteration, as well as competition and predation from non-native species, have driven this species close to extinction,” the center wrote.

Officials from Utah's Central Iron County Water Conservancy District want to spend roughly $260 million to lay about 70 miles (110 kilometers) of buried pipes to transport water from an aquifer below the Pine Valley, an undeveloped, rural swath north of the district's population center in Cedar City. They say limits on their local groundwater supply and an influx of new residents require they diversify their water supply to prepare for the future.

District General Manager Paul Monroe said a review of groundwater assessments found any impacts on the springs would be “less than significant.”

The project has been opposed for decades by neighboring Beaver County, Native American tribes, some ranchers and Nevada counties worried that siphoning water from Pine Valley will affect nearby aquifers.

“Endangered Species Act protection would ensure the Pine Valley water grab doesn't jeopardize the survival of this tiny native Utah fish,” said Krista Kemppinen, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.


Associated Press writer Sam Metz in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

0 Comments
0
0
0
0
0

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

The OPEC oil cartel and allied producers including Russia aren't changing their targets for shipping oil to the global economy. The decision Sunday comes amid uncertainty about the impact of new Western sanctions against Russia that could take significant amounts of oil off the market. Starting Monday, a European Union boycott of most Russian oil and a price cap of $60 per barrel on Russian exports by the EU and the Group of Seven democracies take effect. On the other side, oil has been trading at lower prices on fears a slowing economy will reduce demand. OPEC said in October that's why it was a slashing production by 2 million barrels per day starting in November, which remains in effect.

Spanish officials say a suspicious parcel has been discovered at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid and detonated by police. The finding on Thursday came as police reported a wave of explosive packages being sent in Spain, including one that ignited at the Ukrainian Embassy on Wednesday, injuring one person. Police say other explosive devices concealed in postal packages were sent over the past two days to Spain’s Defense Ministry, a European Union satellite center in Spain and an arms factory that makes grenades sent to Ukraine. An earlier one was sent to the Spanish Prime Minister. There were no other reports of injuries.

The Supreme Court is about to confront a new elections case that could dramatically alter voting in 2024 and beyond. A Republican-led challenge is asking the justices for a novel ruling that could significantly increase the power of state lawmakers over elections for Congress and the presidency. The court is hearing arguments Wednesday in a case from highly competitive North Carolina, where Republican efforts to draw congressional districts heavily in their favor were blocked by a Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court. The question for the justices is whether the U.S. Constitution’s provision giving state legislatures the power to make the rules about the “times, places and manner” of congressional elections cuts state courts out of the process.

Former President Donald Trump is facing rebuke from both parties after calling for the “termination” of parts of the Constitution over his lie that the 2020 election was stolen. Trump, who announced last month that he is running again for president, made the claim over the weekend on his Truth Social media platform. Incoming House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries on Sunday described Trump’s statement as strange and extreme. GOP Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio said he “vehemently" disagrees and condemns the remarks. Both he and Republican Rep.-elect Mike Lawler of New York say the remarks should be a factor as their party decides who should lead them in 2024.

A heartfelt Patti LaBelle praised her lifelong friend Gladys Knight. Matt Damon playfully teased George Clooney and Sheryl Crow performed a heartfelt rendition of “Baby Baby” for Amy Grant. Sean Penn called U2 “four scrappy Dublin punks,” and ballet dancers performed for conductor and composer Tania León. Knight, Clooney, Grant, León and U2 were feted during Sunday’s Kennedy Center Honors. Every year the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts honors a select group of people for their artistic contributions to American culture. The show will be broadcast on Dec. 28 on CBS. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses were in attendance.

Russian authorities have rejected a price cap on the country’s oil set by Ukraine’s Western supporters and are threatening to stop supplying the nations that endorsed it. Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, the United States and the 27-nation European Union agreed Friday to cap what they would pay for Russian oil at $60-per-barrel. The limit is set to take effect Monday, along with an EU embargo on Russian oil shipped by sea. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Saturday that Russia needs to analyze the situation before deciding on a specific response but that it would not accept the price ceiling. Russia’s permanent representative in Vienna warned, "From this year, Europe will live without Russian oil.”

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority is sounding sympathetic to a Christian graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for gay couples. But in arguments Monday, liberal justices suggested that allowing that discrimination could open the door to broader refusals by businesses to serve Black, Jewish or Islamic customers, interracial couples and many others. The Colorado case is the latest clash of religion and gay rights to land at the high court. A case involving a Colorado baker and a wedding cake for a gay couple ended with a limited decision five years ago and is to return to the court.

Listen now and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | RSS Feed | Omny Studio

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News