Paul Barrett / USFWS
Water authorities and 2 cities challenged federally-granted protections for the Santa Ana Sucker. That challenge has now been turned back in court.
A federal court has upheld protections along the Santa Ana River for a small fish sucked into a big political fight.
The Santa Ana sucker fish is only about 5 inches long, with a silver belly and fat lips that help it suck up algae and other food.
A lawsuit filed by an environmental group prompted the federal Fish and Wildlife Service to designate about 10 thousand acres along the river and its tributaries as critical habitat for the sucker.
But some cities and water agencies say protecting that little fish will mean big trouble for water supplies in the Inland Empire. The cities of Riverside and Redlands, along with several regional water agencies, sued to block the designation. California congressional Republicans got involved on the side of the local agencies, holding field hearings questioning environmental protections.
A district court judge has now sided with federal scientists and approved the protections for the sucker fish.
The Center for Biological Diversity, which had sued the federal government to protect the sucker, says it’s pleased.
The general manager for the San Bernardino Water District says he and his counterparts at other water agencies are deciding whether to appeal.