FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 22, 2019
All eyes turn to Gov. Newsom to see if he’ll stand up to Trump when it matters most
SAN FRANCISCO — The Trump administration, under former Westlands Water District lobbyist and now Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, released a doctored set of rules allowing much greater water diversions to its supporters in the dry western San Joaquin Valley. The new rules ensure great damage to California’s environment, especially to the state’s native salmon runs and the family jobs tied to them. The new rules could go into effect late this winter or early spring of 2020 and are sure to make worse pollution and ecosystem health problems in SF Bay and the Delta.
The Trump administration’s new rules conclude that operation of the massive system of dams, canals, and pumps that capture water from northern California salmon rivers and channel and divert it to the western San Joaquin pose no jeopardy to endangered and threatened wildlife, including salmon. This directly contradicts a previous jeopardy finding made by the National Marine Fisheries Service in July. The scientists who wrote that July document were reassigned and prevented from working on the documents released today. No one disputes the new rules are the Trump administration’s attempt to make good on a promise to growers in the San Joaquin Valley to maximize water diversions to them, no matter the environmental and economic consequences to others.
“This decision weakens all of the existing federal rules to protect Bay-Delta salmon runs. We’ve seen this movie before. In 2004 federal salmon biologists found that operating this massive water diversion project jeopardized various native species, including the salmon our jobs and communities depend on, that are supposed to be protected,” said John McManus, president of the Golden State Salmon Association. “The Bush Cheney administration stepped in and overruled and reversed those findings which led to catastrophic water diversions that killed untold millions of salmon and shut down our industry entirely in 2008 and 2009. It looks like this administration is trying to shut us down again – permanently.”
The increased water diversions mean much less water will flow through the Delta to SF Bay in the future. This will occur even though the State Water Resources Control Board has found there’s already insufficient Delta outflow to protect salmon, other wildlife, and the Bay. A lack of water due to over-diversion of Central Valley rivers also regularly causes outbreaks of toxic blue green algae in stagnant, polluted, Delta waters.
The new weaker rules also take a hands off approach to the question of enforcement, leaving it up to Bureau of Reclamation and state Dept. of Water Resources to police themselves and decide when or if water diversions should be scaled back to avoid additional extinctions. Gone is the oversight and enforcement functions the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service formerly had, replaced by an honor system that places control in the hands of agencies that have not earned trust.
Gone too are protections that required the Bureau of Reclamation to leave a sensible volume of water in Lake Shasta at the end of the year to ensure adequate cold water for salmon and water supplies in case of future droughts.
So far, Governor
Newsom hasn’t said what, if anything, he’ll do to protect the state’s salmon, other
wildlife, and salmon fishing jobs from this decision to slash federal
protections. Nor has he said a word
about the looming damage to the coastal and inland communities, families, and
economies that depend on salmon. Newsom
recently vetoed Senate Bill 1, which would have given him strong tools to deal
with this development and retain existing protections for fish and
“Fishing and conservation advocates across the state are watching closely to see if Governor Newsom stands up for California in the face of yet another Trump administration assault on our environment and on salmon fishing jobs,” said GSSA’s McManus.
The Golden State Salmon Association (www.goldenstatesalmon.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.
GSSA’s mission is to restore California salmon for their economic, recreational, commercial, environmental, cultural and health values.
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, GSSA, 650-218-8650