Chair Grijalva, Rep. Huffman Slam Trump Admin Favor to Secretary Bernhardt’s Former Client that Risks Extinction For Salmon

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) released the following statements regarding the Trump administration’s proposal to increase water deliveries through the federal Central Valley Project (CVP) by weakening longstanding protections for endangered species in the ecologically fragile San Francisco Bay Delta. 


Even by the low standards of this administration, the corruption and political ham-handedness reflected in the proposed Biological Opinion for CVP operations is stunning. Just three months ago, scientists at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) concluded that the administration’s scheme to divert more water from the Bay-Delta estuary to politically-connected irrigation interests like the Westlands Water District would raise the risk of extinction for endangered and threatened fish species. Rather than let science and species protection guide this decision, as the Endangered Species Act requires, President Trump’s political appointees ordered an intervention. A new team swooped in, took over the process, and quickly found a way to reach the opposite result. Now, even though NMFS scientists found that the water diversion plan would jeopardize key species, and the State Water Resources Control Board found there is insufficient Bay-Delta outflow to protect salmon and other wildlife, the re-worked Biological Opinion concludes that delivering massive amounts of additional water to Westlands – a lucrative former client of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt – is just fine for endangered fish.   


“The environmental rollbacks announced today are a major giveaway to Secretary Bernhardt’s former clients and other special interests,” said Chair Grijalva. “Given the numerous public reports of improper political influence affecting today’s decision, the Committee intends to fully exercise its constitutional oversight duties and investigate whether the law was followed.”


“The Trump administration’s ‘favor factory’ is at it again, weakening Endangered Species Act protections in order to maximize water deliveries to Secretary’s Bernhardt’s former clients,” said Representative Huffman. “Federal scientists warned that these pumping increases could doom California’s endangered salmon runs to extinction. Instead of listening to them and fixing the flawed pumping plan, the Trump administration replaced them with a new team that did scientific cartwheels to give Westlands what they wanted.  The career officials who succumbed to political pressure and participated in reversing the original jeopardy finding should be ashamed of themselves.  Beyond the stench of transactional corruption, this sham process is a recipe for extinction – for our iconic salmon runs, and for the fishing industry, tribes and communities who depend on salmon.” 

Press Contact

Adam Savana, (202) 225-6065, Adam.Sarvana@mail.house.gov

Mary Hurrell, (202) 225-5187, mary.hurrell@mail.house.gov