Date is set for hearing prompted by dead fish in the long meandering Kern River case

Kern River combatants are headed back to court where a local advocacy group hopes to force the City of Bakersfield to goose up flows, which were cut to a trickle leaving piles of dead fish west of Bakersfield.

The hearing is set for May 9 at 8:30 a.m. in Division J before Kern County Superior Court Judge Gregory Pulskamp.

Group files motion to compel city to comply with order for more water in Kern River

Frustrated with the amount of water dribbling down the western reach of the Kern River, plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit over the river filed a motion Tuesday asking the judge in the case to intervene.

The motion says the City of Bakersfield has not maintained flows required to keep fish in good condition, particularly in the areas of the river from Allen Road westward.

Dead fish piling up in pockets along the western reach of the Kern River concern Bakersfield residents; may prompt return to court

“More of the river has dried up, and the smell of death goes on for miles from the dead fish carcasses throughout the riverbed… It’s almost unbearable out there.” Flows reaching the McClung Weir, about 3 miles west of Allen Road, have, indeed dropped. They had been about 14 cubic feet per second in January. But through most of March, they’ve gone down to about 5 cfs.

Dead end river: Fish carcasses starting to pile up in stagnant pools at the Kern River’s western end

The injunction doesn’t say how much water should be kept in the river, leaving that issue to be negotiated by the city, the plaintiffs and other parties in the suit, including agricultural water districts with rights and contracts to river water.

Until those negotiations are complete, the city announced it would keep enough water in the river so that 5 cubic feet per second reaches McClung weir. But residents like Vegas, and the plaintiffs, feel that’s just not enough water.

Judge dismisses two claims, keeps key pieces of Kern River lawsuit intact

A motion that challenged four claims made in a lawsuit against the City of Bakersfield over how it operates the Kern River got a half-and-half ruling from Kern County Superior Court Judge Gregory Pulskamp Monday evening.

However, the heart of the lawsuit – that Bakersfield breached its duties under the Public Trust Doctrine by dewatering the river through town – will remain intact.

Judge leans toward dismissing some – but not key – actions in ongoing Kern River lawsuit

Kern County Superior Court Judge Gregory Pulskamp let the battalion of attorneys in court Wednesday know he was inclined to drop at least one cause of action in the ongoing lawsuit brought by several public interest groups against the City of Bakersfield for dewatering the Kern River.

But he likely won’t dismiss one of the lawsuit’s key claims – that Bakersfield has a duty to protect the river under the Public Trust Doctrine.

“Where’s the river?” Bakersfield lowers required Kern River flows pending interim flow agreement

Required flows down the Kern River channel were lowered by the City of Bakersfield on Monday as officials have collected more data on how much water is actually needed for the river to get west of town, according to an email from the City Water Resources Department. On Monday, the city notified Kern River interests that it was changing that flow requirement so that water passing McClung would “not exceed 20 cfs.”

New Kern River hearing set and the J.G. Boswell Company fears water in the river for fish will jeopardize its massive ag holdings

The J.G. Boswell Company fears its agricultural interests – and possibly even the City of Corcoran – could be in jeopardy if water is allowed to remain in the Kern River for fish, according to its request to be admitted as a party to a lawsuit brought by local and statewide public interest groups

That’s just one of several new actions in the ongoing fight over river water.

Repairs to Isabella Dam power plant completed; Kern River flows to ramp back up

“Repairs to a damaged tunnel inside the power plant at the base of Isabella Dam were completed Saturday, just seven days after the project began, according to an attorney for Water Audit California, a public interest group suing to keep water in the Kern River. Releases from the dam had been reduced to about 100 …

Isabella power plant operators have a plan to make repairs without drying up Kern River

“Engineers with Isabella Partners, which operates the power plant at the base of Isabella Dam, believe they’ve found a way to make repairs to the plant without drying up the lower Kern River for weeks on end. If successful, water levels will drop from where they are now, but the river won’t go totally dry. …

Historic fish flow ruling on the Kern River wasn’t intended to expand Bakersfield’s water rights, according to judge

Kern County Superior Court Judge Gregory Pulskamp made one thing clear during the latest hearing on the twists and turns of the Kern River’s flow: He did not intend to expand the City of Bakersfield’s water rights under his November ruling that mandated enough water must remain in the river channel for fish populations.

Army Corps approves cuts to Isabella Dam releases as groups look for ways to protect Kern River fish flows and legal maneuvers expand

“The Army Corps of Engineers approved a request by operators of the power plant at the base of the dam to drastically cut water releases between Dec. 18 and Jan. 7 for a planned repair project to the plant. Under the approval, releases would drop from between 500 and 700 cubic feet per second down to …

USACE approves request to temporarily reduce Isabella Dam flows

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has approved a request from Isabella Partners to reduce Isabella Dam water releases following a review and analysis by the USACE Sacramento District. Isabella Partners made the request so that they can safely perform maintenance within their power plant property at the base of the dam. USACE’s approval provides …

Significantly Reduced Flows Could Impact Kern River Soon

“The Lake Isabella Dam is operated by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. However, the power plant that is directly south of it, which is powered by the water released by the dam, is owned by a separate entity, Isabella Partners. Recently, Isabella Partners put in a request to the Army Corps of Engineers to …

Isabella Dam power plant repairs could cut Kern River flows causing a “massive fish kill”

“Anticipated repairs to the power plant at the base of Isabella Dam could cause a “massive fish kill” along the length of the Kern River as flows would have to be cut to almost nothing for weeks. Isabella Partners, which operates that power plant, submitted a request to the Army Corps of Engineers to cut …

Kern County judge approves injunction that limits Bakersfield’s use of Kern River water

A Kern County judge has approved a preliminary injunction, to limit the amount of water from the Kern River the city of Bakersfield can use. The injunction will prevent the now-flowing Kern River from returning to the dry state it was in last year.

Litigation is taking California’s public trust doctrine from the waterfront to the forefront

California courts have long recognized the state’s duty to protect its tidelands, navigable waterways, and submerged lands (i.e., the land below the high tideline) under the common law public trust doctrine. However, California’s public trust doctrine has operated more as a background principle, than an independent force of law for most of its history… he courts have seen a growing number of cases alleging that cities, counties, or other trustee agencies failed to consider the indirect impacts of their decisions on the public trust uses or values.

“Rewatering Napa’s Rivers”

The American Bar Association’s Natural Resources & Environment vol 36 no 1 contained “Rewatering Napa’s Rivers” by Karrigan Bork and Amber Manfree. The article describes the history of California’s legislative efforts to protect fisheries, the structural failures which led to non-enforcement, and the role of private entities like Water Audit in effecting the will of …