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The following article was posted on June 17th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 15 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 15

Bureau of Reclamation fixes pumps after fish deaths

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

For more than a week, folks from the California Department of Water Resources and the Cachuma Operations and Maintenance Board combed a 3,000-foot section of Hilton Creek—a Santa Ynez River tributary—looking for stranded steelhead, an endangered species.

Any fish found out of water, or in little water, was caught and taken to the main stem of the Santa Ynez River or a lower section of Hilton Creek that had a small pool with enough water in it to sustain fish. In total, more than 400 fish were rescued and 200-plus fish died.

Why?

“We had another incident, and the incident has not concluded yet,” Randall Ward, director of Cachuma Operations, said on June 11.

The incident involves broken pumps that are part of a 24-hour-a-day lifeline system designed to move water from Lake Cachuma into Hilton Creek to sustain a habitat for steelhead. The Bureau of Reclamation is responsible for maintaining the pumps, but one pump has been broken since October 2013, and the other pump, which has stopped working intermittently, finally bit the dust at the beginning of June.

Since March 2013, approximately 376 steelhead have died because of pump failures stopping the flow of water into Hilton Creek. As of June 11, the Bureau of Reclamation was trucking water into Hilton Creek 12 times a day to keep the water flowing. Ward said the bureau is finally in the process of fixing its pumps.

Nicole Di Camillo, an Environmental Defense Center staff attorney, released a statement on June 4 announcing plans to sue the federal government over the steelhead deaths.

“By causing these deaths, the bureau has placed the Santa Ynez River’s tenuous steelhead run—and the entire species—at an increased risk of extinction, and has violated federal law mandating the species’ protection,” the release said, adding that the pump incidents are indicators of long-term mismanagement of the species in the Santa Ynez watershed.