Environment & Science

Inland Empire water users appeal Santa Ana Sucker restoration plan to Supreme Court

Santa Ana Sucker, Catostomus santaanae, Paul Barrett, USFWS
Santa Ana Sucker, Catostomus santaanae, Paul Barrett, USFWS
Paul Barrett / USFWS

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A twenty-year-old battle over how to protect a small bottom-feeding fish on the Santa Ana River may go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Federal wildlife officials assert that the Santa Ana Sucker needs protection, and that keeping water in the Santa Ana River is the best way to do it. Scientists say the fish need seasonal ebbs and flows of water to move gravel downstream to spawning grounds so the sucker can grow its numbers. 

A recovery plan currently in the works restricts how much water Inland Empire residents can take from the river. Two cities and 10 water agencies sued to stop the plan. They say federal law requires wildlife officials to work with local agencies where water is concerned, and they argue water supplies for more than 1 million Southern California water users hang in the balance.

Earlier this year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the recovery plan. Now the Inland Empire agencies have petitioned the Supreme Court to take up the matter.

The high court is expected to consider the petition when its new session begins in October.