SAN FRANCISCO — The Los Angeles Times reports that federal salmon biologists’ warnings about dangers to salmon poised by planned increased water diversions by the Central Valley water Project have been suppressed by the Trump administration. The salmon warnings come as the federal government finalizes plans to ship more northern California water to the arid western San Joaquin Valley.
The Times reports the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) staff in California finalized a biological opinion in early July that found the operation of the massive system of dams, canals, pumps and reservoirs jeopardizes protected winter and spring run salmon in the Central Valley, as well as southern resident killer whales. This jeopardy finding was rejected by the political appointees overseeing the process. NMFS salmon biologists further recommended reasonable and prudent alternatives for operating the water project to minimize the damage to wildlife, including salmon runs but these measures will now likely be ignored.
“If the federal government gets away with this water grab, California’s salmon runs will be badly damaged, and likely forever,” said John McManus, president of the Golden Gate Salmon Association. “All Californians should band together and reject this blatant and corrupt attempt to seize the state’s water by urging the governor to immediately pass and implement State Senate Bill 1, which will protect the state’s water and wildlife.”
Senate Bill 1 has passed the State Senate and is awaiting action in the Assembly. Governor Gavin Newsom hasn’t indicated where he stands on the bill. The bill calls for state adoption of federal Obama era salmon and other wildlife protections until the state has time to review and potentially revise them. The bill is aimed at protecting state fish and wildlife from excessive water diversions the Trump administration, under Secretary David Bernhardt, is trying to force through.
“It’s clear that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is politically interfering to direct more water to his former clients, the Westlands Water District, at the expense of salmon, killer whales and other species,” said McManus. “Bernhardt seems determined to follow the footsteps of Ryan Zinke and Scott Pruitt to reward political cronies while thumbing his nose at the law. This time he’s messing with salmon fishing families in California and we won’t be silenced.”
The intended beneficiaries of Bernhardt’s efforts are growers in the Westlands Water District, a small group of junior water users who grow nuts in the arid western San Joaquin Valley. In addition to Trump administration moves in California, the White House also recently overrode the EPA and ordered it to drop opposition to the Pebble Mine in Alaska, located on top of the richest spawning grounds in the world for sockeye salmon.
The Golden Gate Salmon Association (www.goldengatesalmon.org) is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants and chefs, a native tribe, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. GGSA’s mission is to restore California salmon for their economic, recreational, commercial, environmental, cultural and health values. GGSA serves the sport and commercial anglers, businesses, conservationists and foodies that rely on salmon as a long-term, nutritious, sustainable resource. Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in annual economic activity in a normal season.
The industry employs tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This is a huge economic bloc made up of commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, tackle shops and marine stores, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and the salmon fishing industry at large. Salmon are the keystone species that reflect the health of both their fresh and salt water environment.
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Media contact: Michael Coats (707) 935-6203 or firstname.lastname@example.org John McManus, GGSA, 650-218-8650