Trump Approves Extinction Plan for California Fish

Nov 11, 2019

In a draft review from July of this year, federal scientists found that the Trump administration's plans for federal dams and water diversions in California would make a bad situation worse.

California's fish are already in trouble. Industrial farms and big cities suck up too much of the water from rivers, and pollutants become concentrated in the little water that remains.

Trump's proposal would increase the risk of extinction for fish and wildlife that depend on water flowing through the Delta to San Francisco Bay, such as native endangered species like Chinook salmon and Delta smelt. It would even threaten Orca whales that rely on salmon as a food source.

So the scientists determined that stronger protections must be in place to preserve flow into the Bay from the Delta.

Before they could finalize the review, however, the Trump administration abruptly replaced the original team of scientists.

The new team reversed the draft finding, instead concluding that even more water could be taken out of the watershed without harming fish. That's a conclusion that helps Big Ag, but it isn't supported by the facts.

"They're going to cause more harm to species that are already circling the drain," says Baykeeper Senior Scientist Jon Rosenfield, in an interview with Cal Matters.

This final review, called a biological opinion, forms the basis for federal water storage and diversion practices in California. It's yet another attempt by the Trump administration to send more water to industrial agriculture while undermining environmental protections for fish, the Bay, and the Delta.

Fortunately, there are still ways to fend off these federal rollbacks—if California officials choose to act quickly and decisively.

First, the state should use its authority under California's own endangered species act to protect the Bay's fish from increased diversion of water and reservoir mismanagement by the federal government.

In addition, Governor Newsom should require that new voluntary agreements with water districts include major increases in water and habitat restoration in the Bay-Delta and the rivers that feed into the watershed.

Newsom should also urge the State Water Board to complete its long-overdue update of water quality standards soon, so that the Bay's health isn't reliant on increasingly weak federal protections.

Baykeeper will continue advocating for Governor Newsom to stand up for the Bay-Delta's fish and wildlife against these federal attacks. It's past time for state officials to become leaders in the fight to protect healthy waterways in California.

Read Baykeeper's op-ed on the redrafted biological opinions in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Pictured above: A Delta smelt, by Dale Kolke, CA Department of Water Resources

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