For Immediate Release, December 11, 2019


Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 490-0223,
Dan Silver, Endangered Habitats League, (213) 804-2750,

Lawsuit Launched Against Seven Oaks Dam’s Harming of Rare California Fish

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity and Endangered Habitats League today announced their intent to sue the federal government and three Southern California counties for harming imperiled Santa Ana sucker fish with a poorly timed water release from the Seven Oaks Dam during spawning season.

The water release, which started around May 11 and lasted several days, caused high levels of sediment in the Santa Ana River to cover spawning and foraging habitat downstream of the dam. Mud smothered the sucker’s eggs and food, impairing the fish’s reproduction at a crucial time, and damaging some of its best remaining habitat.

Today’s legal notice warns the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Orange County Public Works, San Bernardino County Public Works, and Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District of violations of the Endangered Species Act connected to the water release, which illegally harmed the federally threatened fish.

“This irresponsible action pushed these iconic Southern California fish closer to extinction,” said Ileene Anderson, a scientist at the Center. “These agencies must be held accountable for violating the law and ignoring warnings from federal wildlife officials. It’s sad and frustrating to see this happen when so much time and effort have been spent trying to save this wonderful species.”

“If implemented correctly, management of the Santa Ana River system can successfully combine flood control with preserving wildlife values and the citizens’ natural heritage,” said Dan Silver, executive director of Endangered Habitats League. “However, releases should not be done during the Santa Ana sucker fish’s spawning season.”

The groups point out that operating and managing the Seven Oaks Dam to enhance wildlife helps ensure water quality and quantity for the people who depend on the river for clean, healthy water. Today’s notice notes that the original commitment to provide controlled flood releases to benefit downstream habitat for wildlife went terribly wrong this last spawning season and must not continue.

Santa Ana Sucker, Catostomus santaanae, Paul Barrett, USFWS. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.