Judge grants delay on rules to protect California fish

A judge Monday gave the federal government three more months to finish a new set of rules to protect California's endangered winter-run Chinook salmon, spring-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead.

Environmentalists didn't object to the extension, though they did express concern that three more months would pass with the fish species -- which they said are struggling for survival -- being managed under a plan that U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger already has said is flawed.

The winter-run and spring-run Chinook salmon spawn mainly on the Sacramento River and some of its Northern California tributaries. The Sacramento River water flows into a delta, where some of its water is then pumped out and sent south to users such as Westlands, as well as commercial and residential users in the Bay Area and Southern California. Last summer, Wanger ruled that the three fish species were at risk of extinction and that the state and federal water project operations were further jeopardizing their survival. He found that the rules managing the fish violated the federal Endangered Species Act because they didn't adequately protect the species.

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