Endangered California Salmon Could Disappear Due to Trump Era Water Policy, Says Senator

A California senator has blasted a Trump-era water policy, citing the destructive impact it is having on a species of endangered salmon in the state due to droughts and high water temperatures.

Mike McGuire, a Democrat and chair of the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture (JCFA), held a hearing on Tuesday to highlight the issue and call for change.

It comes after the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) said earlier in July that persistent hot weather could result in hotter water and that this, in turn, could mean an almost complete loss of Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River.

Drought conditions are typically harmful to salmon populations, and cold-water releases from reservoirs can help alleviate this effect.

However, a policy of the Trump administration, that is still in place today, may make this more difficult because it allows more water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers to be used for agriculture purposes.

California filed a federal lawsuit in 2020 to push back against the policy because of fears it could harm species and natural resources.

Now, the policy is being scrutinized again since it is still being carried forward today by President Joe Biden's administration.

In a statement ahead of the hearing, McGuire said: "The alarm couldn't be louder. We are on the brink of a total species collapse due to the historic drought and arcane federal water policy.

"Tuesday's hearing will be critical: we will discuss current conditions, how we've been ignoring lessons learned from the last drought, and what we can do as a state to save endangered species that are on the brink of total collapse."

Winter-run Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, though that status is not the same for all of the species' populations.

Other rivers also emerged as areas of concern. Joseph James, chair of the Yurok Tribe who was invited to speak at the hearing, described a "full-blown emergency issue" in the Klamath River, and said "our children's future depends on ensuring that fish not only survive, but thrive," according to California news outlet the Times Standard.

California is currently experiencing a drought season along with many other states in western parts of the U.S.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's drought monitor shows that 94.8 percent of California is currently experiencing "severe drought," while a third of the state is experiencing "exceptional drought" conditions—the most severe level.

Chinook salmon
A photo shows a Chinook salmon jumping in the Feather River of California. The species is divided up into different populations, some of which are endangered. Supercaliphotolistic/Getty