President Donald Trump and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt are expected to visit the San Joaquin Valley in the coming days, in part to approve a controversial water plan that will divert water from rivers to farmland.
Environmental groups and Native American tribal members say Gov. Gavin Newsom needs to be doing more to protect the state’s waters from Trump’s plan, though the priorities Newsom picked in his Water Resilience Portfolio, which manages the state’s waters, are as environmentally unfriendly as they can get.
“We’re really disappointed in the governor right now,” said Regina Chichizola, of Save California Salmon. “We really believed him when he said he was going to fight the Trump administration.”
Klamath River salmon populations are plummeting, Chichizola said, impacting tribal people who rely on them for sustenance and the commercial fishermen who rely on them for their livelihood.
“The state previously concluded that the increased water diversions under Trump fail to protect salmon and the environment,” said John McManus, president of the Golden State Salmon Association, in a statement. “Gov. Gavin Newsom said he’d stand up to Trump’s assault on California and go to court to stop it but other voices have apparently gotten to him, and so far, Newsom has failed to act.”
Few meetings on water diversions have been held locally, Chichizola said, but Hoopa high school students were able to get a meeting scheduled in Redding.
A couple of weeks after members of local tribes and members of the Hoopa Valley High School water protectors club traveled to the state capitol, the state agreed to hold a hearing on March 2 at 6 p.m. at the Sheraton Redding Hotel (820 Sundial Bridge Dr.).
“Why is it important for people to come out and help stop the projects threatening our rivers?” said Kylee Sorrel, of the water protectors club, in a statement. “It is because these rivers are our future.”
According to a report published by conservation group California Trout and the University of California, Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, “45% of California salmonids are likely to be extinct in the next 50 years.”
Besides climate change, CalTrout listed the top three threats to the state’s salmon as agriculture, major dams and changing land uses.
In order to have an abundant fishery, the salmon need plenty of cold water which comes into the Klamath from the Trinity River, Chichizola said.
The Trump administration’s new water plan for the Central Valley and the biological opinion going along with it will lead to 22% more water being diverted to farmers, she said, meaning a lot more water will be coming out of watersheds like the Sacramento and Trinity rivers.
The governor promised to litigate against those plans, but now “he’s negotiating over water projects that are just as bad as Trump’s water plan,” she said.
“The governor wants the North State’s water, but doesn’t really want our opinions,” Chichizola said.
Restoring and recharging the aquifers would be a win-win solution for everyone, but instead Newsom and Trump “are just proposing the same old large diversions and new reservoirs” that will benefit large water brokers and the agricultural industry, Chichizola said.
“The salmon cannot sustain any more water being taken from the Trinity River,” said Margo Robbins, a Yurok tribal member and faculty adviser to the Water Protectors Club, in a statement. “We must put an end to these new diversion projects.”
Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.