Toll-Road Dissing NOAA Now Fights to Protect Local Steelhead

Perhaps environmentally sensitive locals should withhold sending
support to the Sierra Club, the Surfrider Foundation and the Natural
Resources Defense Council and instead cut checks to the U.S. Department
of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was, after all, the NOAA that dealt what many believe to be the final death blow
to extension of the 241 Foothill South toll road through a state park
and perilously close to Trestles. Now the NOAA is sticking up for local
steelhead trout.

Rodney R. McInnis, the NOAA's Southwest
regional administrator, writes in a letter to the State Water Resources
Control Board stamped Feb. 20, 2009, that his agency's National Marine
Fisheries Service (NMFS) protests the South Coast Water District's
application to “appropriate” water from Aliso Creek because there is
historical evidence steelhead trout once lived there and could possibly
return again.


“NMFS has documented steelhead presence recently
in creeks directly adjacent to Aliso Creek; specifically, San Juan
Creek, Arroyo Trabuco Creek and San Mateo Creek,” states the letter.
“NMFS is therefore concerned that the proposed action would reduce the
chances for steelhead recovery within Aliso Creek by reducing the
quantity and quality of instream habitat for steelhead immigration and
emigration, spawning and rearing. Furthermore, diverting water may
cause take of steelhead, which is prohibited under Section 9 of the
Endangered Species Act.”

McInnis goes on to note that the water
district's application “does not acknowledge historical presence of
endangered steelhead in the Aliso Creek Watershed,” and thus lacks
strategies to deal with potential harm to the fish. The NMFS will
withdraw its protest if a new application addressing the steelhead
situation is filed, the letter concludes.

McInnis' missive mirrors the concerns raised in protests to the water district proposal filed by George Sutherland, project coordinator with the San Clemente-based South Coast chapter of Trout Unlimited, and Michael Hazzard of the Laguna Beach-based Clean Water Now! Coalition. Hazzard and the coalition's fearless leader, Roger Butow, have spun off a new eco-group, Friends of the Aliso Creek Steelhead.

says the NOAA's participation, coupled recent support for Aliso Creek
steelhead protection from California Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, the State Water Resources Control Board, Trout
Unlimited and Cal Trout should make it easier to slap polluters up
and down the watershed.

That's great. But now that I've thought
about it, do keep sending those checks to the Sierra Club, Surfrider
and the NRDC. They have cuter tote bags than the NOAA. 

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