An appeals court says federal officials should have consulted wildlife agencies about potential harm to a tiny, threatened fish before issuing contracts for water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service in renewing 41 contracts a decade ago.
The appeals court sent the case back to a trial judge for further proceedings.
The ruling arises from one of several lawsuits filed by environmentalists seeking to protect the Delta smelt.
The ruling won't affect water flows since protections for the smelt were kept in place during the lawsuit.