NRDC’s 100th Suit Against the Trump Administration Seeks to Protect California Salmon and Endangered Species

Permits Weaken Protections for Fish and Wildlife Already Threatened with Extinction

SACRAMENTO – A coalition of fishing and conservation groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s Endangered Species Act permits (known as biological opinions) 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. Last week, the State of California also announced plans to file litigation challenging these biological opinions.

“The Trump Administration’s biological opinions are a plan for extinction,” said Doug Obegi, Director of the California River Restoration at NRDC. “We are going to court to protect salmon and other endangered species, as well as the thousands of fishing jobs and livelihoods that depend on healthy rivers and robust salmon runs. Rather than harming the environment by increasing water diversions from the Bay-Delta, California can sustain our natural heritage and economy by investing in water recycling, improved water use efficiency, and other sustainable local water supply projects that reduce reliance on the Delta. ” 

State and federal agencies have concluded that stronger protections are needed to prevent the state and federal water projects from driving these native fish species extinct, and earlier this summer scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Service concluded that these proposed operations would jeopardize the continued existence of salmon and other endangered species. However, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has personally intervened in these consultations since 2017 in order to ensure that the Trump Administration weakens protections for endangered species and increases water diversions from the Delta, which would benefit his former clients at the Westlands Water District, among other water users.

NRDC and three of the other plaintiffs in this litigation are represented by the law firm of Altshuler Berzon LLP.  The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The suit represents the 100th lawsuit filed by NRDC against the Trump Administration in just over 1,000 days. Of those cases, 61 have been resolved by court decision or by the defendants’ yielding, with NRDC winning 92% of those cases covering a wide array of issues including the survival of endangered species.

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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 and follow us on Twitter @NRDC


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