California officials have filed suit against the administration in an effort to stop an executive order signed last week by President Trump aimed at providing the state’s farmers with additional water for crops.
The suit alleges that the order will divert too much water from streams and rivers current inhabited by endangered fish species, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum directing the Interior Department to craft rules allowing Central Valley farmers to pump more water, in fulfillment of a 2016 campaign pledge to loosen restrictions in the state.
The order was hailed by farmers but bitterly opposed by environmentalists, who vowed to challenge it, as did California officials.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, challenges the new order and argues recent biological opinions prepared by federal agencies are unlawful, the WSJ reported.
“California won’t silently spectate as the Trump administration adopts scientifically-challenged biological opinions that push species to extinction and harm our natural resources and waterways,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra Thursday.
Rules for the federal Central Valley Project and California State Water Project limited water supply for Central Valley farmers during the state’s years-long drought to protect threatened species like smelt and salmon, the paper said.
As a result, farmers had to abandon some fields while finding other water sources, including buying it on the open market, often at higher prices. They have long lobbied for changes to the rules to allow them more access to additional water but were blocked by Democrats beholden to environmental groups.
In 2018, President Trump issued a directive to some federal agencies, instructing them to create a new operations plan to “address inefficiencies, burdens and conflicts in water delivery,” according to the U.S. Department of Interior.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an opinion in October stating that additional water could be diverted to Central Valley farmers without harm to endangered fish species.
“Our team of career professionals did a great job using the best available science to develop new operational plans for the coordinated operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project,” U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in response to the lawsuit.
“The governor and attorney general just launched a ship into a sea of unpredictable administrative and legal challenges regarding the most complex water operations in the country, something they have not chartered before,” he added.