FEMA to Assess Threat to Delta Fish

San Francisco Chronicle

Nossaman Partner Paul Weiland was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle article "FEMA to assess threat to delta fish," about a court-decreed biological assessment that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will begin this month of their flood insurance program's potential effects on protected chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead and delta smelt.  Critics have said that FEMA's flood insurance program encourages development in the floodplain of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, eliminating valuable habitat and affecting federally protected fish species. 

In June 2010, the Kern County Water Agency and Sacramento's Coalition for a Sustainable Delta sued FEMA in federal court, claiming that it was violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to consult with federal wildlife agencies regarding its insurance program.  FEMA settled in March and paid a $200,000 fee.  They must now perform an assessment of possible effects on protected species and present it to the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The agency has lost or settled six nearly identical lawsuits related to its National Flood Insurance Program over the last 18 years. 

Mr. Weiland, who represented the Kern County Water Agency and Coalition for a Sustainable Delta in their suit, noted that "FEMA's approach has been to not do something unless it's absolutely forced to in court."

The assessment could result in an order to introduce new environmental restrictions on development in the delta floodplain.

Mr. Weiland continued, "they can certainly make adjustments to the program to take into account the values of habitat and habitat protection."

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