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.

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.

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.

‘We’ve now got a seat at the table’: City of Bakersfield ordered to halt excess pull of water from Kern River to protect wildlife

“A Kern County judge has granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit by citizen water advocacy groups, filed against the City of Bakersfield and its water usage.  To ensure protection of fish and other river wildlife, the city is prohibited from using more water than it needs.”

Kern County judge considers injunction to halt Bakersfield’s water distribution amid environmental lawsuit

“A Kern County Superior Court judge is considering whether to issue an injunction that would prevent the city of Bakersfield from distributing water in the Kern River until the lawsuit is settled.”

Kern River legal wrangling raises questions about how – or whether – the river can serve the needs of people, fish and ag

“Kern County Superior Court Judge Gregory Pulskamp came back several times during an Oct. 13 hearing to what he saw as a “major issue” in the dispute over keeping water in the Kern River – its plumbing.”

Rewatering the Kern River: Water Audit seeks injunction in Kern River lawsuit

On August 10, 2023 a coalition of community advocacy groups filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to return a living river to the City of Bakersfield. The litigation proposes a community alternative will maintain both river and irrigation flows by relocating diversions to downstream of the City.

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.

State and federal agencies want fish ladder restored on Merced River

Two powerful state and federal agencies have stuck their toes, so to speak, into an ongoing lawsuit against Merced Irrigation District demanding the district reopen a long defunct fish ladder. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries Service both sent letters to Merced Irrigation District after Water Audit California sued the …

Napa’s Lake Marie dam to release water for fish under 1915 law

“The Lake Marie reservoir, created in the late 19th century as part of a Napa State Hospital water mini-empire, might in the 21st century help locally rare steelhead trout. Water Audit California has used lawsuits to try to gain more water from local reservoirs for downstream fish habitat. In this case, the California Department of …

Lake Marie Flows to Provide Improved Fish Habitat

A settlement agreement ending litigation between the California Department of State Hospitals and Water Audit California that was announced today will improve conditions for fish in Cayetano Creek while allowing Skyline Park visitors to continue to enjoy Lake Marie as a hiking destination. This resolution is representative of two principles: we can manage what we measure, and we can always do better. This settlement is the next step in Water Audit’s Napa Valley remediation program that has so far included securing dam bypasses from Kimball, Rector, Bell Canyon dams, and the removal of obstructions to spawning in Garnet and York Creeks.

“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 …

York Creek dam removed!

Water Audit California is pleased to announce that our inspectors have observed water flowing at the site of the recently-removed York Creek dam in Napa. Local authorities had stalled on the court-ordered removal of this dam for a decade until WAC began enforcement action in 2017. Removal activities began earlier this summer and WAC can confirm that the passage is now clear in time for winter rains.

WAC warns Napa County of litigation over winery permitting deregulation

“Water Audit cannot, however, remain silent about the proposed Ordinance, as that legislation that appears to pose a direct threat to interests of the public trust. Recent events and research have elevated our concerns to outright alarm. …We see no discussion in the Board of Supervisor’s record of the impact that these identified new demands …