Trump Administration Dumps on Ca Salmon

by John McManus


Today, the Trump administration released a new proposal aimed at increasing water diversions from the Bay-Delta at the expense of salmon and the tens of thousands of industry jobs that depend on them. In spite of years of declining salmon runs and industry losses, the administration is saying the water diversion system that moves billions of gallons of Central Valley water from where nature intended it, to the western San Joaquin Valley, doesn’t damage salmon. Today’s announcement, called a biological assessment, is a step towards abandoning federal rules governing the damaging effects of the giant state and federal water diverting pumps in the Delta, which were adopted in 2008 and 2009,. 

“This is part of a blatant water grab that directly threatens thousands of fishing jobs and families in California,” said GGSA secretary and Pro Troll tackle owner Dick Pool. “For the administration to claim that the giant federal water project, which includes the massive diversion pumps in the Delta, can run at full bore and not harm salmon runs is simply not credible.”

After the last great drought from 2012 to 2016, the state and federal governments recognized that existing salmon protections had been inadequate and began a process to strengthen them. However, this effort was hijacked and reversed after the Trump administration came into office.  A key figure behind the effort is David Bernhardt, acting US Secretary of Interior, who formerly worked as an attorney and lobbyist for the Westlands Water District. Westlands delivers Northern California water to a few hundred large farming operations in the arid western San Joaquin Valley. While working for Westlands, Bernhardt lost multiple court cases aimed at overturning the salmon protections enacted in 2008 and 2009. Now, he seeks to do through executive fiat that which the courts ruled illegal. The next step in this process will be the issuance of what’s called a biological opinion or a no jeopardy opinion. The document the Bureau of Reclamation released today clearly shows their plan to use this process to establish a new set of weaker, or non-existent, rules governing water the Central Valley Project’s ability to store and divert water from California’s most important salmon rivers. 

California is required to protect species listed as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), including winter and spring run salmon. The Bureau of Reclamation is attempting to set new federal rules that will allow severe damage to these salmon. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife should act immediately to address this threat.   

“The Trump administration won’t be able to get away with killing off our salmon runs if the state refuses to cooperate. We call on the Newsom administration to just say no to this attack on California’s salmon fishing families,” said GGSA director Noah Oppenheim. Oppenheim also heads the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens’ Associations, a group representing commercial fishermen. 

The proposed absence of pumping restraints in the Delta mirrors conditions in the Delta prior to 2008. In 2004, the Bush/Cheney administration tried to claim the federal water operations were benign to salmon, as the Trump administration is now proposing. They basically allowed unfettered water diversions from the Delta until multiple courts found this to be illegal under the federal Endangered Species Act.  

“We’ve seen what happens when water users are given free rein to divert Bay-Delta water. It was the norm prior to 2008, and it killed so many baby salmon attempting to get to the ocean that all ocean salmon fishing had to be shut for the first time in history in 2008 and 2009,” said GGSA director and USA publisher Mike Aughney.

GGSA president John McManus is a long-time salmon fisherman and salmon advocate. He comes from a varied background that includes ten years of commercial salmon fishing in southeast Alaska, 15 years producing news for CNN and more recently, 11 years doing publicity and organizing for the public interest environmental law firm Earthjustice. Work at Earthjustice included organizing and publicity supporting restored salmon fisheries in the Columbia, Klamath and Sacramento rivers. 

A San Francisco native, Muni Pier and Lake Merced were the places where he first learned to tie a fishing line, bait a hook, and cast. He’s a long time member of the Coastside Fishing Club and keeps a boat part of the year in Half Moon Bay. 

From the 1970s on he spent a lot of time in the north coast salmon communities of Bodega Bay, Pt. Arena, Fort Bragg and Eureka. As salmon runs declined in the 1990’s, he got a front row seat to the demise of these communities, something that fuels his advocacy for salmon and salmon communities to this day. 

The Golden Gate Salmon Association is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants, 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.

Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in economic activity annually in a regular season and about half that much in economic activity and jobs again in Oregon. 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, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and the salmon fishing industry at large.

The opinions expressed on MyOutdoorBuddy are those of the author and do not represent the opinion of MyOutdoorBuddy or that of the author's employer unless otherwise stated.