Newsom suit challenges water action

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom made good on his threat to block President Donald Trump’s controversial plan to increase water deliveries to the San Joaquin Valley by filing a claim against the federal administration.

On Feb. 19 Trump addressed a crowd at Meadows Field Airport in Bakersfield, where he was accompanied by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and a coalition of Central Valley farmers (see id=0000011082)

Trump addressed the ongoing fight between California farmers and state water policies that have negatively impacted agricultural operations in the Golden State.

Central Valley advocates have pointed to the practice in Northern California that have allowed some 75 percent of the state’s fresh water to be released into the San Francisco Bay as an “outdated” attempt to protect salmon and Delta smelt.

McCarthy has for many years promoted a compromise that would offer suitable environmental protections while allowing for capture, storage and delivery of water to the farmers and other operators in the Central Valley.

The day after Trump’s visit, Newsom’s administration, through Attorney General Xavier Becerra, filed a lawsuit claiming that Trump’s proposed plan would continue to endanger the smelt, Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead.

Kern County leaders have already filed opposition to Newsom’s latest action and emphasized the need to modernize California’s water policies.

“The actions by Gov. Newsom and AG Becerra are a slap in the face to Central Valley farmers and the residents of Southern California, especially since state officials were in the room as the new federal regulations were being developed,” reads a statement jointly released by McCarthy and other congressmen.

“If this litigation is successful, Sacramento Democrats will have succeeded in denying Central Valley farms.” The statement continues by noting that Newsom’s action will also impact communities in Los Angeles and San Diego by withholding “the water they need to survive and grow the food we all eat.

“This baseless lawsuit demonstrates that the governor and attorney general are playing a dangerous game of politics with California water policy.” McCarthy said that Newsom wrote a letter to the Trump administration only four days prior seeking common ground in the water crisis.

“This is the exact opposite of working together, and strains the credibility of those commitments.”

“This latest legal challenge is unacceptable and sends a clear signal that the governor doesn’t understand where our food comes from,” said state Sen. Shannon Grove. “Unfortunately, this lawsuit is another unnecessary attack on California’s hardworking farmers, farmworkers and families.”

She said the biological opinions and new science that informs the latest proposal “must not be ignored or dismissed.”

“This counterproductive lawsuit by Gov. Newsom is yet another example of how the state of California continues to work against the best interest of the Central Valley,” said Assemblyman Vince Fong.

“At a time when Central Valley leaders are working with our federal counterparts to bring more safe, reliable and stable water supplies for our communities, farmers and ranchers, the governor’s litigation creates uncertainty and hurts all Californians. This is a reckless lawsuit that needlessly jeopardizes the future of an incredibly resilient industry that feeds our families and supports all of our communities.”

Story First Published: 2020-02-28