SACRAMENTO – The California Attorney General, representing Governor Newsom and the State of California, filed a motion today in federal court for a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of the Trump Administration’s biological opinions (permits under the Endangered Species Act) governing operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project in California’s Bay-Delta. The State also amended its complaint alleging the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s operations of the Central Valley Project violated the federal and state Endangered Species Act. These court filings seek to require the Central Valley Project to comply with protections for salmon and other native fish species required under State law. The State’s filings follow a motion for a preliminary injunction filed by a coalition of conservation and fishing groups including NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), asking the Court to enjoin the new BiOps and require the Trump Administration to comply with the prior, more protective permits.
The following is a statement from Doug Obegi, Senior Attorney for the Water Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Our state leaders are stepping up to protect California’s natural heritage and the jobs and communities that depend on a healthy Bay-Delta. The Trump Administration’s rollback of protections for the Bay-Delta is illegal and harming endangered fish and wildlife on a daily basis. The State is trying to fix an unfair situation where the federal government is killing endangered fish and harming water supply for other users. We hope the courts will force the Trump Administration to protect the Delta and play by the same rules as everyone else.”
In December 2019, NRDC and a coalition of fishing and conservation groups filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s biological opinions (permits under the Endangered Species Act) for the operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project in California. These biological opinions significantly weaken existing protections for salmon and other endangered fish species in California’s Bay-Delta watershed, in order to increase water diversions from the imperiled estuary.
The Trump Administration’s permits maximize water deliveries to agribusinesses and other water districts served by the federal Central Valley Project and State Water Project.
These biological opinions are the end result of several years of political interference by a federal administration intent on dismantling the protections required by existing biological opinions, led by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist and counsel for the Westlands Water District, the largest water district in the Central Valley.
Over the month of April, the Central Valley Project has pumped nearly four times more water than the State Water Project and has killed more than 1,000 longfin smelt, a species protected under the California Endangered Species Act (see here). This resulted from the fact that the Central Valley Project is not currently required to comply with the California Endangered Species Act.
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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC