Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 2, 2018


Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 490-0223,
Drew Feldmann, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, (909) 881-6081,

Agreement Reached to Protect Endangered Fish, Songbirds From San Bernardino Water Treatment Facility  

Santa Ana Sucker Gets Population Restoration, Guaranteed River Flows

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.— Conservation groups and the San Bernardino Municipal Water Department reached an agreement today to restore populations of the endangered Santa Ana sucker, maintain required flows in the Santa Ana River and protect songbird habitat.

“This is an important step toward ensuring a healthy future for the Santa Ana sucker,” said Ileene Anderson, a senior biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Santa Ana suckers used to be common in Southern California rivers. This agreement will help keep these unique little fish alive where they’re living now and restore them to their historic habitat, tributaries to the Santa Ana River.”

Today’s settlement follows conservation groups’ 2017 lawsuit against the San Bernardino Municipal Water Department’s approval of water-recycling activities at the Rapid Infiltration and Extraction (RIX) facility and a 2016 protest to the State Water Board. In the past, temporary shutdowns of the facility have resulted in the Santa Ana River temporarily going dry, causing stranding and death of Santa Ana suckers and arroyo chubs.

Now, as a condition of the agreement, the water department must permanently maintain minimum flows in the Santa Ana River and establish three new self-sustaining populations of the Santa Ana sucker in its tributaries. The department must also coordinate with the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District to release stored water during shutdowns to maintain the river’s flows. That will minimize the harm caused by future shutdowns.

The agreement will also require the department to preserve riparian habitat for two endangered songbirds — the least Bell’s vireo and southwestern willow flycatcher.

“Urban development has evicted these beautiful little birds from much of their historic habitat,” said Drew Feldmann, conservation chair of the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society. “This agreement will ensure that the department’s activities do not further reduce habitat for these endangered songbirds.”

The Santa Ana sucker is a small, olive-gray fish found in clear, cool, rocky pools of creeks as well as gravelly bottoms of permanent streams. The species was well distributed throughout the Los Angeles, San Gabriel, Santa Ana and San Bernardino rivers historically, but is now relegated to only a few stream stretches.

The Center for Biological Diversity and San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society filed suit against the department in April 2017 over its inadequate environmental review of the RIX facility. As part of the agreement, the conservation groups will dismiss the lawsuit.

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.

The San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society is the local chapter of the National Audubon Society for almost all of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, and has about two thousand members in that area. Its missions are the protection of natural habitat for birds and other wildlife, and public education about the environment.

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