REACTIONS: Water agencies, NGOs, and legislators react to Trump’s signing of the new biological opinions

Yesterday, President Trump was in the San Joaquin Valley where he signed the Record of Decision finalizing the new biological opinions, which are the rules that govern operations of the federal and state water projects.  Here’s what water agencies, NGOs, fishing and tribal interests had to say, listed in alphabetical order.

From Attorney General Xavier Becerra:

California Attorney General Becerra today issued the following statement on the Trump Administration’s announcement of a final record of decision and adoption of biological opinions endangering protected species and their habitat in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds, including the Bay Delta:

“California won’t allow the Trump Administration to destroy and deplete our natural resources,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We’re prepared to challenge the Trump Administration’s harmful attack on our state’s critical ecosystems and environment.”

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:

Today’s signing of a record of decision coordinating federal and state water projects offers a hopeful sign, according to California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson.

Johansson, who attended the ceremony in Bakersfield where President Trump announced signing of the document, said the action will add much-needed flexibility to operation of the federal Central Valley Project and State Water Project. He also thanked the president for signing a memo directing federal agencies to coordinate efforts to store more water, offer regulatory certainty and improve protection of protected species.

“Farmers are optimists and this is a day for optimism,” Johansson said. “The federal agencies have taken a holistic look at the California water system and offered an alternative that promises to improve the health of the environment without devastating people whose communities and livelihoods depend on reliable water supplies.

“We should embrace this new approach and give it a chance to succeed,” he said. “We know all too well that the policies of the past 25-plus years haven’t worked.”

Johansson said better coordination and improved flexibility of federal and state water project operations would benefit people throughout California.

“Federal and state officials need to be pulling in the same direction to assure the most efficient use of California water for fish and people,” he said. “We hope people at all levels of government can cooperate on plans to enhance the environment, accommodate a growing population and maintain productive farms and ranches.”

Johansson expressed disappointment in reports indicating the state government will sue over today’s federal actions, and said solutions to California water problems will be found in constructive discussions, not in courtrooms.

“We have to get off the merry-go-round of endless litigation,” he said. “No one benefits from that. Fisheries continue to suffer. Productive farmland goes unused. It’s not a sustainable path for anyone. Farm Bureau will continue to advocate for practical, reasonable, cooperative ways to address California’s water supply needs.”

From Mike Wade at the California Farm Water Coalition:

“For the first time in more than a decade, the federal rules known as Biological Opinions are being updated. These rules exist to protect threatened species in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region while also meeting the water supply needs of farms, businesses and people.

“The new Biological Opinions, based on more than 10 years of scientific study, will allow California to manage water in real-time using the latest science rather than relying on an arbitrary calendar approach that takes years to recognize updated research. The decade-old rules are based on outdated science and have failed to help Delta smelt, Chinook salmon and other threatened species. And to keep us from once again letting rules get outdated while struggling species suffer, the new Biological Opinions allow for ongoing scientific review as well as independent evaluation by outside experts.

“Getting these rules right impacts the entire state. Water from the federally-run Central Valley Project delivers enough water to meet the needs of 1 million California households, over 3 million acres of some of the most productive farmland in the world and over a million-acre feet of water for fish and wildlife and their habitat, including state and federal wildlife refuges and wetlands. The State Water Project serves the water needs of 750,000 acres of productive farmland and the domestic water supply for two-thirds of all Californians. We applaud the Trump Administration as well as California leadership including Representatives Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes for their part in making this a reality.

“To be clear, this is just one piece of a very complicated puzzle that we hope includes new Voluntary Agreements on water. We support the Newsom Administration’s efforts to make water policy work better for all Californians.”

From Congressman Jim Costa:

Congressman Jim Costa released the following statement after the United States Bureau of Reclamation implemented the new 2019 biological opinion governing operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project:

“I’ve been calling for the biological opinions to be updated for years and I am pleased to see the process that began during the Obama Administration come to completion. Using adaptive management, science, and observed realities on the ground, rather than arbitrary calendar dates to determine water operations, is the right thing to do, especially in light of California’s changing climate. This not only allows for water to be moved more efficiently, which will help our agriculture economy, but also ensures sufficient water for habitat is available when needed for endangered species.

“We cannot let this moment derail the progress that has been made toward a new paradigm in California water policy. Water users, the State, and the federal government must remain focused on reaching an agreement on coordinated operations of the State’s water systems.

“I’m hopeful this isn’t the end of these negotiations. We have the chance to start a new era of working together on water – one that benefits all sides – and we must not squander the chance.

“I will continue to work with all the parties to find solutions.”

From Congressman Doug LaMalfa:

Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) issued the following statement after the President and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt visited California to sign a Record of Decision formalizing biological opinions that would reduce water flushed to the San Francisco Bay and provide more water for wildlife refuges and California farmers’ irrigations systems.

LaMalfa said: “I applaud the President and Secretary Bernhardt for joining California Representatives in standing up to bureaucrats and Sacramento politicians that have continuously sided with extreme environmentalists. The Record of Decision and memorandum signed today continue to protect North State water rights, and keep water flowing for use in agriculture, cities and towns, and wildlife refuges. The Trump Administration is bringing back common sense water policy and keeping the President’s promise to California. For too long California water has been utterly wasted by sending vast quantities of it out to the ocean for no environmental benefit or for human use. Today’s Record of Decision begins to change that policy failure that has harmed families, farms, workers, and our economy across the state.”

From Defenders of Wildlife:

“With the stroke of a pen, the Trump administration has signed off on new rules for water management in California that are essentially a death warrant for Delta smelt and winter-run Chinook salmon, two of the most endangered species in the United States. The Trump administration’s biological opinions will devastate the Bay Delta, its tributaries and the species that rely upon these waters for their survival.
“The State of California has been at the forefront of the fight against the Trump administration’s efforts to gut laws protecting our air, water and public health. This move undermines this hard work and represents yet another attack on fish, wildlife and communities that rely on these waterways. In the midst of a global extinction crisis, we are depending on Governor Newsom to stand up for all who need a healthy Delta ecosystem.”

From John McManus and the Golden State Salmon Association:

“Trump’s shady deal water deal, finalized today, seizes more northern California water and gravely threatens the jobs of tens of thousands of Californians who work in the salmon industry.  Peoples’ way of life throughout rural and coastal California are at stake.

Experts in the National Marine Fisheries Service warned that the water grab finalized today would severely threaten salmon and other wildlife but their objections were over ruled.

The Golden State Salmon Association calls on Governor Gavin Newsom to let Attorney General Xavier Becerra do his job of protecting California from Trump’s attacks on our environment. 

The Golden State Salmon Association and allies have gone to court to stop Trump’s water grab and to protect the jobs of tens of thousands of Californian’s in the salmon industry.”

“Californians are heartened to hear that the Newsom administration will take action to stop Donald Trump’s attempted rerouting of water from northern California salmon rivers to his supporters in the dry western San Joaquin Valley.  We hope the governor allows Attorney General Xavier Becerra to do his job of protecting California’s environment, which Becerra has proven very good at. 

A measure of Governor Newsom’s sincerity will be if he orders his Department of Water Resources to pull their Trump-like water pumping plan back and rework so it’s protective of the environment.

In Trump’s water remarks today in Bakersfield, many Californians noticed that the president never said a word about the tens of thousands of salmon industry jobs, including many in rural areas that his new water diversion plan would destroy.”   

From the Kern County Water Agency:

“With these biological opinions in place Kern County will have a better water supply, California’s Delta will be better able to support native fish populations and future regulations will put science first and reward creative new thinking,” said Kern County Water Agency Board of Directors President Royce Fast.

The State of California also must issue a permit for the SWP under the California Endangered Species Act.  The State continues to work on an incidental take permit for the SWP that, together with the federal biological opinions, will control its operation. 

“We are working with the State to make sure the incidental take permit can be issued quickly so there is no disruption in water supplies to Kern County,” said Fast. The Agency’s also participating with other water districts and State and federal agencies to develop agreements to comply with a third set of standards that will be approved by the State Water Resources Control Board later this year. 

“We are optimistic that the voluntary agreements being prepared for the State Board also can improve Kern County’s water supply reliability and improve protections for salmon and Delta smelt in the Delta,” said Fast.

From Kate Poole at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“These new rules sacrifice the Bay-Delta and its most endangered species for the financial interests of the President’s political backers and Secretary Bernhardt’s former clients. We will fight for the largest estuary on the West Coast, which sustains hundreds of fish and wildlife and thousands of fishing jobs that depend on a healthy Bay-Delta. The Newsom Administration has the tools it needs to protect California from Trump’s latest assault on the environment, and we’re looking forward to working with the Governor to do so.”

More Information

Trump’s Bay-Delta Biops Are a Plan for Extinction (Detailed overview):
Bad News for the Bay-Delta Tomorrow: Trump Administration’s New Biops (High-level overview):

From the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Save Our Salmon:

“The Federal Government has a tribal trust responsibility to protect salmon, but instead of honoring Tribes, Trump is doubling down on diverting the rivers we rely on,” said Morning Star Gali. “Tribes have senior water and fishing rights, and clean water and salmon are the center of our cultures, health and way of life. The Trump Administration’s salmon extinction plan would destroy our way of life.”

Gali added, “Governor Newsom promised to fight the Trump water grab and to honor California’s Tribes. Instead he is siding with the Trump Administration on behalf of California’s wealthiest water users. It’s time for Governor Newsom to walk his talk and fight for California’s Tribes, the environment, and for all Californians, not just his political donors.”

The President’s actions this week come at a time when the state of California must choose which path to take on water policy.

“Months ago, Governor Newsom pledged to fight against the federal plan to suck our rivers dry and irrigate poison-laced deserts in the San Joaquin Valley,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of PCFFA. “Today, the Governor and his staff talk about cutting green tape, the very legal and procedural protections that keep rivers, salmon, and fishing jobs alive. The Governor must not allow his agencies to lock arms with the Trump Administration and join the race to the bottom on water policy.”

From Barbara Barrigan-Parilla at Restore the Delta:

“We don’t understand why Governor Newsom has still not filed the promised lawsuit against Trump’s tainted BiOps. Why is his administration collaborating with the Trump Administration on creating “faux science” about the needs of Delta fisheries and ignoring the millions of Delta residents dependent on a healthy estuary? Fishery numbers are at their lowest levels ever and Bay-Delta cities are experiencing harmful algal blooms due to lack of flows.

“The people of California have made it clear they want the SF Bay-Delta estuary protected. What does Governor Newsom gain from siding with Secretary Bernhardt, Westlands Water District, and the State Water Contractors either politically, policy wise, or in terms of protecting California’s water supply in a changing climate? We think nothing. Californians will remember which side Governor Newsom will choose – especially if it’s the side of special interests tied to a corrupt Federal administration over our state’s people and public trust resources.”

From Federico Barajas at the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Agency:

The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (Authority) is pleased with the signing of the Record of Decision on the Long-Term Operations of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP). This action implements a long overdue update to the operating rules for the Federal and State Water Projects that provide water to California’s farmland and farming communities, its municipal and industrial regions, and important wildlife refuges south of the Delta. 

“The Record of Decision is based on new Biological Opinions that provide more flexibility to the operations of California’s water projects while protecting listed species and enhancing the conditions in which they live in the Delta and its tributaries.

“The Biological Opinions are based upon the best available science developed over the past ten years and rely on a variety of new programs and management procedures intended to enhance protection of endangered species. 

“They rely on systemwide enhancements that are based on real-time risks rather than the prior, calendar-based pumping schedule that failed to achieve its goals over the past decade. The new efforts include real-time monitoring of fish populations, a commitment to reduce pumping when sensitive species are present, along with actions that increase monitoring effectiveness.

“This is an important step forward to manage the operations of California’s water projects in a way that is responsive to real-time conditions.” said Federico Barajas. “Ensuring the efficient operation of critical infrastructure, like the Jones Pumping Plant, into the future, is vital for California’s economy, its managed wetlands and for the United States, which depends on California farms for more than 50 percent of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables produced nationwide.”

From the Winnemem Wintu Tribe:

Today, the Trump Administration signed the last document before implementing new increased water diversion rules that represent a major new attack on tribal people, salmon and the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the major rivers, including the Sacramento, that supply it.  A huge increase in water diversion under these rules could lead to more salmon killed at the delta pumps as soon as the next rain storm.

The Winnemem Wintu are salmon people who are Indigenous to the Sacramento Valley watershed from the sacred waters of Mt. Shasta all the way to the Delta the only place where Chinook can acclimate.  Wild Chinook are a central part of our genesis, our health, our culture and our religion.

  1. We are asserting our rights under the UN DRIP to “free, prior, and Informed Consent on the Delta Conveyance Project as it affects our Indigenous Rights, the rights of our wild Chinook and the ancestral waterways.
  2. The UNDRIP Article 10, 11, 12, and 26 pertains to our claims to ancestral rights that protect the Delta and the sensitive aspect of the largest Estuary on the Pacific Coast.
  3. The very existence of the Winnemem Wintu people relies on the consistent healthy returns of the Wild Chinook.  It is a tribal belief that whatever happens to the Chinook happens to the tribe. Therefore, if the Chinook cannot acclimate in the Delta they will not swim to the McCloud River and the extinction will be final, this will also affect the fate of the Winnemem Wintu.
  4. The 1941 Indian Land Acquisition Act allowed for the Shasta Lake to be filled, yet failed in every way to honor the intent of the law.  The Shasta Dam Central Valley Project made the Winnemem Wintu people homeless and jobless ever since the Dam flooded 26 miles of our homelands, sacred sites, and cemeteries.  
  5. The Shasta Dam blocked our tribe and wild Chinook from our homelands without mitigation.  It sent my mother and father’s generation off to Riverside California to the Sherman Indian Boarding School and stripped them of their homelife on the river. 
  6. The new Trump water diversions intensify federal government attacks on the Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s existence. Just like the Keystone XL pipeline at Standing Rock.  The Trump Biological Opinion brings on an intentional salmon extinction plan and detrimental to all Tribes and waters depending on Salmon.  

The Trump salmon extinction plan would end the current legal requirement to return salmon to our river, set the stage for the raising of Shasta Dam, which would flood more of our tribe’s sacred sites, give the federal Bureau of Reclamation permission to kill off our salmon below Shasta Dam, and allow the Bureau to kill even more salmon in the Delta.  It would also divert and pump more water from the Trinity River, which supports salmon and tribes in the Trinity/Klamath River system.  

In November, Governor Newsom pledged to sue to block this federal attack on salmon and tribes.   That suit has not yet been filed, but there is still time.  We urge Governor Newsom to oppose this attack on California Tribes and rural communities and to stop Trump, as he promised.

A few greedy agribusiness interests are trying to persuade Governor Newsom to embrace the Trump salmon extinction plan.  We hope the Governor will see this plan for the disaster it is.  The governor is being misled by big money interests that have never cared about California’s original Indigenous peoples nor people in rural communities.  The Governor should be the governor for all of California. 

Governor Newsom has made some initial steps to begin repairing the damage that native people have suffered in California over the past 200 years.  Fighting the Trump salmon extinction plan would be a truer action to realizing overdue justice for Indigenous California Tribes.  

Governor Newsom has said that he wants to move the California water debate away from conflict and litigation. But the Trump salmon extinction plan is designed to create conflict and litigation. It was written only after they silenced federal biologists who objected.  Having purged the truth tellers, the Secretary of the Interior – Bernhart, a former lobbyist for the Westlands Water District – reversed the accurate conclusion that the Bureau’s proposals would endanger salmon.  

The state should write their own rules to protect salmon under the California Endangered Species Act.  Those rules should be stronger than current protections – given the terrible state of salmon runs, fish waterways must be provided for salmon to get to the mountain waters.  And the state should force the federal water operators to obey that state permit. 

SEE ALSO:  More statements in support of Trump’s action here.



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