Is Governor Newsom’s California Salmon Strategy Just Smoke and Mirrors? GSSA Responds

Golden State Salmon Association’s Statement in Response to Governor Newsom’s California Salmon Strategy

Governor Newsom’s new Salmon Plan is packed full of good stuff that we have been fighting to get for years. We welcome increased hatchery production and are excited to see improvements on the Feather River and other actions. The problem is that the salmon community has been poked in the eye way too many times and the plan, on paper, directly conflicts with the Newsom Administration’s implementation track record and what he has actually been doing for years to devastate California’s most important salmon runs. So, what it potentially boils down to is conveniently timed smoke and mirrors and we’re left wondering if this is yet another public relations stunt.

We will know that the Governor is serious about helping salmon communities when he finally abandons the extreme water diversion rules forced on us under the previous presidential administration. The current salmon season closure – the Newsom shutdown – was caused by the administration’s irresponsible decisions during the drought. The core problem is simple. Lethal temperatures and inadequate flows are killing our largest salmon runs. If Governor Newsom wants to restore salmon, he should:

• Abandon the Trump Administration’s Endangered Species Act salmon extinction plan. Until now, Newsom’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has been using the Trump plan as their blueprint for state requirements under the California Endangered Species Act.  

• Let the State Water Board do its job and stop supporting the scientifically baseless voluntary agreements. That exclusionary and ineffective plan has been engineered by the Newsom Administration specifically to avoid giving salmon the flow and temperature protections they need to survive. In fact, just this month, U.S. EPA wrote to the state, confirming that the VAs fail to provide the flows salmon need. The Governor has made it quite clear what he wants the State Board to do. He even fired the Board chair appointed by Governor Brown, who actually increased flow requirements. 

• Stop supporting the Sites Reservoir and the Delta Tunnel projects – both of which are designed to further increase diversion from the Bay-Delta. In fact, Governor Newsom recently told Bill Maher his plan – to keep increasing diversions from the Bay-Delta system through the Delta tunnel, new surface storage and more.

 • The Governor is releasing this plan now because in the coming month or two, state agencies will release disastrous salmon population numbers from the 2023 spawning season. Those numbers are the result of the Newsom salmon plan for the past 5 years. When it comes to the Newsom track record and salmon plan, mother nature has clearly voted that it’s not only failing but dramatically failing. Newsom is pushing this plan out before those results are in.  

• One more thing- the Newsom plan calls for strengthening partnerships. We’d welcome that. To date, the Governor has refused to meet with the salmon fishing industry or our environmental, environmental justice and Tribal partners in the Bay-Delta to hear our concerns and our ideas. He’s heard plenty from water users. Let’s make sure this plan is not just another diversion like what’s happening with our state’s water – the very water fish, wildlife, people and cultures desperately rely on.