Account clerk fired: As an investigation into funds missing from Chico Junior High continues, the school board has decided to fire the account clerk who managed the money there.

“We did take action to terminate an account clerk,” board President Rick Anderson confirmed after the closed-session item at Aug. 3’s Board of Trustees meeting. The clerk was terminated “for cause,” but the district isn’t allowed to say why, Anderson said.

The employee has two weeks to appeal to the district’s Personnel Commission, which has the legal right to overturn the board’s decision, said Greg Einhorn, attorney for the Chico Unified School District.

The clerk, who voluntary dropped to half-time last year, had been suspended with pay. The News & Review has learned her name but is withholding it because she has not been charged with any crime. She’s worked for the district for several years and also served as the account clerk for Marsh Junior High School.

Situation critical: Score one for the fairy shrimp—or not. The federal government was slated Aug. 11 to designate critical habitat for 15 species of vernal-pool plants and freshwater shrimp. The rule will go into effect Sept. 12.

But environmentalists are watching to see if the rule designates habitat in any significant way or, as a June report implied, exclude altogether five counties, including Butte.

“I doubt that they will exclude everything because they would be hard-pressed to justify that under the existing law,” said Barbara Vlamis, executive director of the Butte Environmental Council.

In a move blasted by enviros as political, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service in June refused to designate the critical habitat, saying that to do so would cost $1 billion in lost development opportunities. Earlier, the USFWS had recommended designating 1.7 million acres statewide and in Southern Oregon.

BEC successfully sued the USFWS in August 2003 when it refused to designate habitat. The USFWS maintains that designating the critical habitat doesn’t offer additional protection to the species, but simply requires federal agencies to consult with the service on projects.

Speaking with the fishes: A local organization has joined in a lawsuit that targets the federal government for actions that jeopardize endangered and threatened protected salmon and steelhead species in California waterways.

The Sacramento River Preservation Trust on Aug. 9 joined fishing groups, conservation interests and the Winnemem Wintu tribe in a suit filed in U.S. District Court. The suit alleges that the government’s “biological opinion” for the Operations Criteria And Plan (OCAP), which ties together state and federal water projects, is faulty. The plaintiffs contend that exporting water south will threaten the habitat of Sacramento River winter- and spring-run Chinook salmon and several other species.

John Merz, executive director for the river trust, said the problem lies in how the OCAP proposes moving water around the system, including eliminating a cold water pool near Shasta Dam and moving the temperature control point. “Winter- and spring-run both need water in the mid-50s. Anything hotter than that starts to threaten their ability to spawn successfully,” Merz said

The suit also calls for an environmental-impact statement for the federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project.