Top Leader at Interior Dept. Pushes a Policy Favoring His Former Client
A spokesman for the Westlands, Johnny Amaral, declined a request to interview district officers.
If the protections at the fish have been lifted, Westlands would now not be the one beneficiary — water would additionally go with the flow to surrounding water districts. But as a result of a quirk in California regulation, Westlands would most probably be the principle beneficiary, in step with Jeffrey Mount, a water control professional with the Public Policy Institute of California. That’s as a result of river water in California is sent in step with a longstanding first-come-first-served gadget, and Westlands is low at the listing.
“Westlands is the most penalized under the current system,” Mr. Mount mentioned. “But if the protections on the fish are relaxed, they will be one of the biggest winners.”
Mr. Bernhardt disagrees. “It’s a massive project,” he mentioned of the vast Central Valley gadget for distributing water to farmers. “It’s 400 miles of project. The coordinated operations involve 25 million people. These are big, big policy things.”
Mr. Bernhardt mentioned his movements mirrored Mr. Trump’s broader schedule of serving to rural America, together with a marketing campaign pledge to ship water to the entire Central Valley farmers. “The president does have a policy that he wants us to deliver water more efficiently, and it’s good policy.” he mentioned. “I don’t believe for a minute that I’m doing things to benefit Westlands. I’m doing things to benefit America.”
$1.three Million in Lobbying Fees
In 2011 the farmers of Westlands employed Mr. Bernhardt, who labored for the company Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. During his 5 years as lobbyist and legal professional for the district, it paid his company at least $1.three million in lobbying charges, his disclosure reviews display.
For Westlands, Mr. Bernhardt mentioned he lobbied Congress on a vast water infrastructure invoice, however his lobbying was once fascinated about one explicit segment of the invoice: a provision to weaken smelt and salmon protections, and divert water to the Central Valley farmers. That invoice handed, however it resulted within the unencumber of simplest small quantities of river water for irrigation in Westlands, and can achieve this simplest thru 2021.
Weakening the underlying Endangered Species Act protections would release a lot more water.
In 2014, Mr. Bernhardt, on behalf of Westlands, joined a felony petition asking the Supreme Court to absorb a case in search of to weaken or elevate Endangered Species Act protections at the delta smelt. The identical 12 months, he made oral arguments in a case that pitted Westlands and a half-dozen different California water districts towards the government and sought to weaken Endangered Species protections at the winter-run Chinook salmon.