State Water Contractors Stand with Trump Administration

Yesterday, attorneys for the State Water Contractors filed a motion to intervene in litigation challenging the Trump Administration’s recent biological opinions in the Bay-Delta.  In the motion, “The State Water Contractors (SWC), including its member agencies—which include among others the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Kern County Water Agency, Central Coast Water Agency, and Solano County Water Agency” ask the court for permission to side with the Trump Administration and Westlands Water District to defend Trump’s plan for extinction in the Delta.  These are the same water districts who urged Governor Newsom to veto SB 1, who have consistently fought efforts to reduce water diversions in order to protect the Bay-Delta, and who have consistently advanced Trumpian claims that fish don’t need water.

If you live in Southern California or Silicon Valley, you might be surprised to learn that your local water district (a member agency of the State Water Contractors) is siding with the Trump Administration, and defending Trump’s plan to increase water diversions, despite the widespread acknowledgement that this plan is likely to drive salmon and Delta Smelt extinct.  I for one must have missed when the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California voted to join this litigation to defend the Trump Administration’s biological opinions.

On the other side are the Plaintiffs in the two cases challenging Trump’s plan for extinction: the People of the State of California, California Natural Resources Agency, and California Environmental Protection Agency, and a coalition of conservation and fishing groups that includes NRDC.  

Let’s briefly compare what the State Water Contractors and State of California say about the federal biological opinions:

State Water Contractors’ Motion to Intervene

State of California’s Complaint

The biological opinions “are designed to be the same or more protective of ESA-listed species than the criteria and measures under the 2008-2009 biological opinions.”

The biological opinions “actually significantly reduce protections for the listed species and their designated critical habitat, thereby increasing the likelihood of their extinction.”

The biological opinions’ “no jeopardy and no adverse modification conclusions are reasonable, adequately explained, and supported by robust analysis.”

The biological opinions are “fatally defective,” do “not use ’the best scientific and commercial data available’ as required by Section 7(a)(2) of the ESA,” and “the conclusions based on that comparison are unsupported by scientific evidence and run counter to the scientific evidence that was before the agencies.”

It's not just NRDC or the State of California who have concluded that the biological opinions are deeply flawed and a plan for extinction. Independent scientific peer reviews raised red flags about the draft biological opinions, scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Service concluded that the plan would jeopardize salmon in violation of the Endangered Species Act (so they were removed and a no-jeopardy biological opinion was signed by a Trump Administration political appointee in D.C.), and recent letters from the California-Nevada Chapter of the American Fisheries Society highlighted numerous flaws and concerns with the final biological opinions.

As I wrote last year, if you wouldn’t trust oil companies or tobacco companies to tell you what’s safe for the planet or your health, why would you trust these water agencies—which make their living selling imported water and have spent the past decade undermining environmental protections in the Delta—to tell you what’s good for fish and wildlife in the Bay-Delta watershed?

At least now the State Water Contractors are showing their true Trumpian colors.

About the Authors

Doug Obegi

Director, California River Restoration, Water Division, Nature Program

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