Trump casts dark shadow on California water

By Camille von Kaenel | 06/05/2024 05:00 AM EDT

The clock is ticking for the Biden and Newsom administrations to finish rewriting Trump-era rules to protect endangered fish before the former president tries to fulfill his pledge to send more water to farmers.

Donald Trump speaks during a rally.

Then-President Donald Trump stayed true to a campaign promise when he changed Obama-era rules in order to send more water to farmers in 2020. Chris Carlson/AP

SACRAMENTO, California — President Joe Biden and Gov. Gavin Newsom are racing to protect vulnerable Chinook salmon and Delta smelt in California’s main water supply before a possible second Trump presidency.

Former President Donald Trump vowed this year to send more water to drought-weary, Republican-leaning farmers if he is reelected. Biden and Newsom are trying to thwart the move that could send endangered fish closer to extinction by overhauling Trump-era rules before the end of 2024.

The Biden administration is on track to bake in more protections for fish in the way state and federal officials operate the 400-mile-long set of reservoirs, pumps and canals that move water (and kill fish) around the state by Dec. 6, according to a federal agency schedule obtained by POLITICO. The schedule leaves only two weeks for public review.


“We do want it done at the end of this administration, and that’s the commitment that we’ve gotten,” Karla Nemeth, California’s director of water resources, said in an interview.