His rulings play a crucial role in determining the operation of federal and state water projects in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. But Judge Oliver Wanger said last week that court rulings aren't to blame for drastic reductions in water deliveries.
Wanger, a U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of California, gave the keynote address during the annual Madera County Farm Bureau Water Conference.
He has been instrumental in several recent court cases relating to Central Valley Project and State Water Project water deliveries that have been severely restricted by the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws. Most of those cases revolve around protected species such as the threatened delta smelt, as well as threatened and endangered species of salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and even killer whales—"because they feed on salmon," Wanger said.
Wanger let it be known at the beginning of his talk that he was speaking as "a private citizen and not on behalf of the United States District Court where I serve," and that his views were not intended to be a comment on any pending cases.
"I am going to touch on subjects that relate to these cases, but I am going to try to not comment on the cases themselves, because we have issues which have been submitted for a decision or will be very soon," he said.
The Fresno-based federal judge said he finds it remarkable that there is, what he called, so little accurate information about how the California "water wars" were created and whether there are any solutions to the dilemma.
"I will start by saying one thing: The one place where there can be no solution is in the courts. That is where these cases are at present, but there is no question that the courts don't have resources, the courts don't have expertise, the courts don't have political authority or executive authority to do anything to solve the issues that are presented," he said.
Source: California Farm Bureau Federation