In November 2017, President Trump’s Interior Department disbanded the federal advisory committee for the Trinity River Restoration Program (TRRP)—a $15 million/year fishery restoration program in northwestern California. e Trinity Adaptive Management Working Group (TAMWG) had been established in 2000 as public watchdogs for the TRRP.
The disbanding of the TAMWG surprised its members, TRRP staff, partners and local politicians. e official explanation from Interior Department was that the TAMWG did not submit a justification for its existence. However, paperwork had been submitted months prior to the TAMWG’s termination.
The Bureau of Reclamation (BuRec), at the direction of former Westlands Water District lobbyist and Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, issued a federal register notice in late December as a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) “...to evaluate alternatives that maximize water deliveries and optimize marketable power generation...” to the powerful Westlands Water District and other Central Valley Project contractors— at the expense of the environment, including the Trinity River. It seems clear that the TAMWG was disbanded to elimate oversight and silence dissention.
Low water flows in the Trinity following the development of the Lewiston and Trinity dams (completed in the early 60s) resulted in the decimation of its world-class salmon and steelhead fisheries. It has taken decades of studies and litigation for the Trinity River to reclaim half of its natural flow at Lewiston, but the higher flows and fisheries are still at risk.
Humboldt County’s 1959 50,000 acre-foot water contract for Trinity River water is also at risk. e use of Humboldt County’s 50,000 acre-foot contract was approved by BuRec in an April 2017 Record of Decision to prevent a repeat of the 2002 fish kill in the Lower Klamath River during late summer months.
The firing of the TAMWG was just the first step in an effort to roll back decades of effort to restore the Trinity River’s fisheries to subsidize thirsty water districts elsewhere. A protest was held in Sacramento in January by Klamath-Trinity advocates, tribal and fishing groups. e fight against the BuRec proposal will continue.
Information on the EIS process can be obtained by contacting BuRec employee Katrina Harrison at 916-414-2425 or [email protected].