David Bernhardt was President Trump's nominee to become Secretary of the Interior.

David Bernhardt/Twitter

California Salmon Fishers And Environmental Groups Oppose Trump's Cabinet Nominee

Doug Sovern
March 27, 2019 - 9:09 am

Salmon fishers and dozens of California environmental groups oppose President Trump's nomination of David Bernhardt to lead the Interior Department. 

Bernhardt, who has been the Acting Secretary of the Interior, faces a Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday. He would succeed Ryan Zinke who resigned as secretary amid a wave of ethics investigations, including one about whether he personally benefited from a development deal with energy giant Halliburton in Montana. 

Bernhardt comes with baggage too, according to 150 conservation and environmental groups who've asked the Senate to reject his nomination because of his ties to former lobbying clients, such as agricultural interests. 

"With Bernhardt leading the Interior Department, we can no longer assume that federal agencies will adequately protect salmon in California's Central Valley," said  Golden Gate Salmon Association President John McManus. 

Related: Wild Salmon Return To South Bay Waterways After Extensive Cleanup

As a presidential candidate, Trump promised during a campaign stop in Fresno in 2016 that farmers and not fish would get the water they need.

"We're going to solve your water problem. You've got a water problem that is so insane. It is so ridiculous," Trump said. "They're taking the water and shoving it out to see," he said to a cheering crowd. 

With Bernhardt at the helm, more water from the Sacramento River would be diverted into the valley, McManus said. He warns that it will look a lot like policy in 2000 to 2006 "when pumping out of the bay delta was basically unregulated." 

If a similar scenario is recreated, the effects could be disastrous on the fragile ecology, McManus said. 

"It basically took the environment in the delta and all the species therein and put them into a tailspin, from which they have not recovered to this day." 

Despite opposition when he was nominated as deputy secretary, the Senate confirmed Bernhardt in a vote of 53 to 43. 

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story misstated whom the Senate had confirmed as deputy secretary of the interior. The Senate approved Bernhardt in the vote.