Top Leader at Inside Dept. Pushes a Policy Favoring His Former Client

A spokesman for the Westlands, Johnny Amaral, declined a request to interview district officials.

If the protections on the fish were lifted, Westlands could not be the only beneficiary — water could also flow to surrounding water districts. nevertheless because of a quirk in California law, Westlands could likely be the main beneficiary, according to Jeffrey Mount, a water management expert with the Public Policy Institute of California. of which’s because river water in California is usually distributed according to a longstanding first-come-first-served system, along with Westlands is usually low on the list.

“Westlands is usually the most penalized under the current system,” Mr. Mount said. “nevertheless if the protections on the fish are relaxed, they will be one of the biggest winners.”

Mr. Bernhardt disagrees. “This specific’s a massive project,” he said of the broad Central Valley system for distributing water to farmers. “This specific’s 400 miles of project. The coordinated operations involve 25 million people. These are big, big policy things.”

Mr. Bernhardt said his actions reflected Mr. Trump’s broader agenda of helping rural America, including a campaign pledge to deliver water to all the Central Valley farmers. “The president does have a policy of which he wants us to deliver water more efficiently, along with This specific’s not bad policy.” he said. “I don’t believe for a minute of which I’m doing things to benefit Westlands. I’m doing things to benefit America.”

In 2011 the farmers of Westlands hired Mr. Bernhardt, who worked for the firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. During his all 5 years as lobbyist along with lawyer for the district, This specific paid his firm at least $1.3 million in lobbying fees, his disclosure reports show.

For Westlands, Mr. Bernhardt said he lobbied Congress on a broad water infrastructure bill, nevertheless his lobbying was focused on one specific section of the bill: a provision to weaken smelt along with salmon protections, along with divert water to the Central Valley farmers. of which bill passed, nevertheless This specific resulted inside Discharge of only modest amounts of river water for irrigation in Westlands, along with will do so only through 2021.

Weakening the underlying Endangered Species Act protections could free up much more water.

In 2014, Mr. Bernhardt, on behalf of Westlands, joined a legal petition asking the Supreme Court to take up a case seeking to weaken or lift Endangered Species Act protections on the delta smelt. The same year, he made oral arguments in a case of which pitted Westlands along which has a half-dozen different California water districts against the federal government along with sought to weaken Endangered Species protections on the winter-run Chinook salmon.