Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.


For immediate release: April 11, 2006

Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, 323-654-5943
Jim Edmondson, California Trout, 818-865-2888
David Goodward, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, 909-783-2417

Battle joined to protect precious San Bernardino Mountains stream
Conservationists challenge Southern California Edison and federal agencies’ failure to protect Mill Creek from destructive hydroelectric diversion

San Bernardino, Calif. – Three conservation groups have filed an opening brief today in an important lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and U.S. Forest Service over the agencies’ failure to protect Mill Creek and dependent wildlife from destructive water diversions to generate hydroelectric power. The brief was filed in the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society and California Trout, and represented by the Center for Biological Diversity and Natural Heritage Institute.

In a separate related action, Audubon, CalTrout, and the Center also notified Southern California Edison of their intent to sue the company over its failure to secure required state and federal permits for streambed bulldozing for the diversions and for repeated dumping of sand and silt into the creek.

The conservation groups’ lawsuit alleges that FERC violated the Federal Power Act and federal Endangered Species Act in July 2003 when it renewed a 30-year license allowing the continued diversion of all water from nearby Mill Creek for Southern California Edison’s Mill Creek No. 3 Hydroelectric facility near Forest Falls in the southern San Bernardino Mountains. The groups also ask the Ninth Circuit to order FERC to reopen the re-licensing decision due to subsequent identification of critical recovery habitat for the southwestern willow flycatcher along Mill Creek.

The groups’ separate notice of intent to sue Southern California Edison alleges that the company violated the federal Clean Water Act and California Fish and Game code when it failed to obtain required permits to repeatedly bulldoze Mill Creek for the hydroelectric water diversions and to dispose sand and silt into Mill Creek and nearby University Creek.

“Our legal actions are a last resort after years of seeking a compromise to leave some water, any water, for streamside forests and wildlife on Mill Creek,” said Ileene Anderson, a staff ecologist for the Center for Biological Diversity. “But FERC and Southern California Edison refused to budge even after state and federal wildlife agencies and conservation groups requested that water be left for wildlife.”

"For decades FERC has destroyed Mill Creek due to the lack of in-stream flow below the Southern California Edison diversion,” said Jim Edmondson, Southern California Manager for California Trout. “This neglect has caused a once-vibrant trout stream to become a bone-dry wash devoid of life."

"FERC was wrong when they said a release of all the water would be the only way the creek would once again support fish, birds and other wildlife," said Dave Goodward of San Bernardino Valley Audubon. "We contend that even a partial release of water would create enough streamside habitat to allow the wildlife to come back. Let's get Mill Creek flourishing again, not only for the wildlife, but for all the people down in the lowlands who would enjoy the cool water."

“Mill Creek is one of the few remaining undeveloped streams in the Santa Ana River watershed,” added Anderson. “Despite its relatively small size, Mill Creek provides very large wildlife values with its aquatic and streamside forest habitat, and its rainbow trout, frogs and flycatchers. “Development, water extractions and pollution have already ruined most major southern California rivers. Why can’t they give this little stream and its wildlife a break?


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