Recent News

California Takes Action Against Trump ESA Rollbacks Restore the Delta response

For Immediate Release: 11/21/19 Contact: Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta 209-479-2053, [email protected]  Stockton, CA – The State of California announced two actions today that will impact protections of California’s endangered species.The Department of Water Resources issued draft Environmental Impact Report today on the operation of the State Water Project.Agencies also announced intention to sue the federal government over the Trump Administration’s recent biological opinion that would increase the flow of water from federal water projects the SF Bay-Delta to corporate agriculture interests, despite impacts on endangered species like salmon.Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta said:“We are happy to hear that the California Natural Resources Agency has determined that operating rules for the Federal water project are not scientifically adequate and that the state [...]

OP-ED: Newsom must stop the Westlands water grab!

Newsom must stop the Westlands water grab and save the San Francisco Bay-Deltaby Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Special to CalMatters11/20/2019 “Westlands is the 800-pound gorilla in California water politics. Years ago, fearing its water supplies were decreasing, Westlands hired David Bernhardt and paid him more than $1 million to be their lobbyist. Now that Bernhardt has become Trump’s Secretary of the Interior, the Westlands plan is in full effect. “It took national news stories breaking about conflicts of interest between Interior Secretary Bernhardt and Westlands Water District for the Bureau of Reclamation to release a significant Westlands water delivery contract for public review. “Within this new contract, water deliveries for up to 1.15 million acre-feet annually will be made available for Westlands to meet [...]

In Case You Missed It: The Westlands permanent contract deal isn’t bad just for the Delta. More details on #BernhardtGate.

Neighboring water deal reeks of cronyism – Las Vegas Sun, 11/17/19 We are quoted in an editorial on Westlands in the Las Vegas Sun, which worries about implications for Nevada urban water users. “For decades, Nevada has fought to update the 1922-vintage Colorado River Compact so that our state can receive its fair allotment of water from the river.   Now comes news of a sketchy water deal in California that should spur us into action.  The Department of the Interior is proposing to award a highly coveted water supply contract to California’s Westlands Water District, which Interior Secretary David Bernhardt previously represented as a lobbyist. “Westlands Water District has used its outsized influence with Secretary Bernhardt to jump over other [...]

In Case You Missed It: LA Times Editorial Board Gets It Right 11/12/19

“Dead dogs and toxic fish: Welcome to Stockton, a city choking on California water policy” – The Los Angeles Times, 11/12/19 The #LATimes Editorial Board knocks it out of the park with an editorial that gets at what the Trump water plan and Newsom Voluntary agreements mean for the Delta’s largest city, Stockton, and the Delta’s environmental justice communities.  To read the editorial in full, click here.  “…it’s not only the fish, fishing industry, the orcas and the ecosystem that are in jeopardy. “It is also the people of Stockton and those other communities up and down the river that live or die on the flow of water through their cities. It is the heart of California, sacrificed for more politically connected areas. It [...]

ICYMI – More on #BernhardtGate

Interior Chief’s Lobbying Past Has Challenged the Agency’s Ethics Referees – The New York Times, 11/9/19 New York Times Coral Davenport writes on how Secretary Bernhardt works to skirt around conflict of interest laws on behalf of Westlands Water District.   “At the center of many ethics issues is Westlands, a state entity created at the behest of, and largely controlled by, some of California’s wealthiest and most politically influential farmers. It is also the state’s largest agricultural water user, and for years it has lobbied lawmakers to weaken environmental rules to in an effort to get more irrigation water. Last month, the Interior Department granted Westlands the policy victory it had long sought, with the release of a new plan that would lift protections on [...]

ICYMI – Sunday Morning Roundup 11/10/19

Interior nears a contract with a company its secretary used to lobby for – Roll Call 11/8/19  “California has a limited water resource and water is going to become more and more scarce with climate change. Westlands Water District has used its outsized influence with Secretary Bernhardt to jump over other people to acquire water rights and guarantees that they shouldn’t get like this,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of California water conservation group Restore the Delta. “Bernhardt is like Santa Claus, handing out goodies to his former client.”   Read more here. Watch our new video: Harmful Algal Blooms in the SF Bay-Delta Estuary: Causes and Solutions. Available here on YouTube now. Let’s end this list with some good news. People [...]

Another Breaking Story on #Bernhardtgate

Water district with Bernhardt ties eyes permanent contract– Michael Doyleand Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E News, 11/8/19The nation’s largest agricultural water district could secure permanent access to precious irrigation deliveries under a newly proposed deal — reviving California political strife and questions about Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s role in the matter. Tapping a provision in a heavily lobbied 2016 law, the Westlands Water District and Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation are proposing that the district pay off what it owes the federal government and thereby ensure water supplies without future contract renewals. Interior officials say it’s a good deal, but some critics think the deal is questionable, both on the merits and for the close political ties it raises with the Interior secretary. Comment [...]

BREAKING NEWS: AP reveals Bernhardt/Westlands Sweetheart Water Deal

Interior proposes coveted deal to ex-client of agency head– Ellen Knickmeyer, AP 11/8/19The Interior Department is proposing to award one of the first contracts for federal water in perpetuity to a powerful rural California water district that had long employed Secretary David Bernhardt as a lobbyist….Bernhardt served as a lobbyist for Westlands until 2016, the year before he joined Interior, initially as deputy secretary.“The Interior Department needs to look out for the public interest, and not just serve the financial interests of their former lobbying clients,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, a Democrat from California.Comment by Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director, Restore the Delta:Governor Newsom needs to condemn the conflict of interest between Secretary Bernhardt and Westlands Water District reported today by [...]

ICYMI – California Water News, Scary Stuff Edition 10/31/19

Democrats’ Bernhardt probe has California’s Cox in a tough spot – Roll Call, Washington, DC 10/31/19“…an investigation by Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee who say Interior Secretary David Bernhardt may have influenced the reversal of that scientific assessment to help Westlands Water District, a former lobbying client that provides water to those farmers. The probe also puts one of those Democrats in a tough spot.”Restore the Delta adds…As we posited in our blog The Political Science of Bernhardt’s Biological Opinions, the Trump Administration is rolling back Delta species and water quality protections aided by the waffling, and at times stonewalling, of San Joaquin Valley Congressional Democrats.  These representatives, like Representative TJ Cox, were voted in to help bring about change in the San [...]

ICYMI – Santa Barbara Rejects Single Tunnel Plan, Newsom’s Confusing Water Policy (October 28, 2019)

Santa Barbara Water Agencies Say No to State Water Tunnel Project – Noozhawk Santa Barbara 10/25/19“Local water agencies aren’t buying into the new version of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta “twin tunnels” project, and Santa Barbara County members of the State Water Project voted Thursday to opt out entirely…“The Department of Water Resources hasn’t released a complete project description or estimated costs, but wants State Water Project members to opt in or out now, according to Central Coast Water Authority Executive Director Ray Stokes.”Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta comments,“Restore the Delta was the first group to call for a full cost-benefit analysis of the twin tunnels, including an analysis of the value of freshwater to the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary.  Our call for [...]