The US District Court judge in Sacramento decided in favour of environmentalists who sued the US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and the Friant Water Users Authority in 1988 over the Friant dam on the San Joaquin river. In the lawsuit, the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups charged that the defendants violated state law by failing to release enough water to sustain the surrounding environment and wildlife.
Agreeing with the environmentalists the judge wrote that there can be no genuine dispute that many miles of the San Joaquin river are now entirely dry, except during extremely wet
periods, and that the historic fish populations have been destroyed.
The San Joaquin river originally
supported thousands of spawning Chinook salmon and other fish before USBR built the Friant dam, about 32km northeast of Fresno, in the 1940s. The water now collects in Millerton Lake and provides irrigation to about 15,000 farmers and 404,700ha of farmland east of the river.