Legislative History

As populations and development increased in California, particularly in the Central Valley, efforts focused on the Trinity River as a resource to supplement the needs of other areas of California. Initial plans to divert Trinity River water to the Sacramento River were included in the California State Water Plan in the 1930s, but later dropped. Proposals were reinitiated in the late 1940s, and the Department provided to Congress reports and findings on a proposed plan of development in the early 1950s. These reports indicated that more than 1.1 million acre-feet (af) of inflow occurred on average from the upper Trinity River Basin above Lewiston. Based on these reports, Congress concluded that water “surplus” to the present and future water needs of the Trinity and Klamath Basins — then estimated at approximately 700,000 af and considered “wasting to the Pacific Ocean” — could be diverted to the Central Valley “without detrimental effect to the fishery resources.” (H.R. Rep. No. 602, 84th Cong., 1st Sess. 4-5 (1955); S. Rep. No. 1154, 84 Cong., 1st Sess. 5 (1955)). In fact, the underlying reports suggested that development of the Trinity River Division, and the resulting diversions, would not only maintain but also improve fishery conditions in the Trinity River, with as little as 120,500 af of water per year from above Lewiston dedicated to the fishery. Based on these understandings, Congress passed legislation authorizing the Trinity River Division (TRD) on August 12, 1955 (PL 84-386) (1955 Act). Although Congress authorized the TRD as an integrated component of the Central Valley Project (CVP), section 2 of the 1955 Act specifically directed the Secretary of the Interior to ensure the preservation and propagation of fish and wildlife in the Trinity Basin through the adoption of appropriate measures.

1955: Congress authorized Trinity River Division of the Central Valley Project
1963: Trinity/Lewiston dams completed
1981: Interior Secretary increased flows and initiated Flow Evaluation Study
1984: Congress enacted Trinity River Basin Fish and Wildlife Management Act – to implement salmon restoration
1992: Congress enacted Central Valley Project Improvement Act, increased flows to 340,000 AF
1999: Flow Study completed, used as Preferred Alternative in EIS/EIR
2000: Record of Decision (ROD) signed

The Trinity River Basin Fish and Wildlife Task Force was initiated in 1984 under PL 98-541 to restore and maintain the fish and wildlife stocks of the Trinity River Basin to levels that existed just prior to construction of the CVP Trinity River Division. The Central Valley Project Improvement Act of 1992 (PL 102-575) further supported restoration objectives and established completion dates for the program documents.

The Trinity River Mainstem Fishery Restoration EIS was completed and the Record of Decision (ROD) signed on December 19, 2000, establishing the current Trinity River Restoration Program. The EIS calls for physical/mechanical restoration actions in the basin, as well as an increase from approximately 25 to 48 percent of the average annual inflow to Trinity Lake to be released to the River. CVP water and power users filed suit to prevent implementation of the ROD. On March 19, 2001, the Eastern District Court of California enjoined that part of the decision that provided increased flows for the Trinity River required preparation of a Supplemental EIS/EIR (SEIS), but allowed other aspects of the program to proceed. A contract for developing the SEIS was awarded in December 2001, to include additional analysis of impacts to power production and those resulting from implementation of the associated Biological Opinion.

On April 19, 2002, U.S. District Court Judge Wanger modified the injunction to release more water in 2002, and proceeded to decide the merits of the case. On December 9, 2002, Judge Wanger granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on the issue of the Federal defendant’s (Department of the Interior) failure to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act. The Court entered final judgment on April 7, 2003, and granted defendants increased river flows from 340,000 acre-feet to 452,600 acre-feet in dry or wetter years. The U.S., Hoopa Valley and Yurok tribes, and Central Valley irrigators (Westlands, San Luis, and Delta-Mendota Water Authority) appealed the Court’s April 2003 judgment.

Appeals were heard by the Ninth Circuit Court, and a final ruling was issued on November 5, 2004 in favor of the defendants that directs all aspects of the program to proceed and overturns the lower court’s requirement to complete the SEIS. Plaintiffs have indicated they will not appeal to the Supreme Court.