Federal Judge Oliver Wanger, on whose every word we have hung, fired one last salvo before stepping down from the bench of the Eastern District of California this week.
The occasion was a hearing on the federal government’s request that Wanger hold off on a ruling he made involving efforts to push encroaching salt water back in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to help the threatened delta smelt. The ruling is being appealed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of the Interior, and the Justice Department.
Wanger criticized written testimony by fish biologists Frederick V. Feyrer of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Jennifer M. Norris of the USF&WS. He accused Norris of not being honest with the court. “I find her testimony to be that of a zealot. And I’m not overstating the case. I’m not being histrionic. I’m not being dramatic.” He said that the federal government had acted in “bad faith.”
Ren Lohoefener, Regional Director of the Pacific Southwest Region of USF&WS, hastened to assure the region’s employees that he stands 100% behind the scientific integrity and credibility of Dr. Norris and Mr. Feyrer. He said he had reviewed and concurred with the declarations regarding the value of fall habitat water conditions to survival of delta smelt.
On the other side, Congressman Devin Nunes used Wanger’s comments to justify an attack on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that we can only describe as intemperate.