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Suit Targets Stream Diversions

by Associated Press
Spokesman Review, June 8, 2001

BOISE -- Two environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday alleging hundreds of stream diversions on federal land in the upper Salmon River basin violate the Endangered Species Act.

Western Watersheds Project and the Committee for Idaho's High Desert contend the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management failed to ensure that diversions for irrigation by ranchers and others do not harm salmon, steelhead or bull trout -- all listed as protected "threatened" species.

"Federal biologists have repeatedly warned that irrigation diversions are a major source of harm," said Jon Marvel, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project. "Fish are being sucked into ditches where they die, and they are killed when streams are dewatered, yet federal bureaucrats do nothing."

George Matejko, supervisor of the Salmon-Challis National Forest, said he had not seen the lawsuit. He declined comment until after conferring with agency attorneys.

Laird Lucas, an attorney for the environmental groups, said the Sawtooth National Forest had taken steps to comply with the Endangered Species Act's requirements on stream diversions. "Because the Salmon-Challis National Forest and the BLM have refused to take action, we are forced to file suit."

Associated Press
Suit Targets Stream Diversions
Spokesman Review, June 8, 2001

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