Dammed if they do

State A.G. takes on a large water district with ties to Trump

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra isn’t just battling President Donald Trump on 50 different legal fronts, he’s also suing at least one state contract agency where the president’s interior secretary formerly worked as a lobbyist.

Becerra announced last week that his office filed a suit against Westlands Water District for violating the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Westlands provides water to farms across the Central Valley and is one of the largest water districts in the United States.

Westlands recently became the lead agency for a $1.3 billion project to raise Shasta Dam by as much as 18 feet. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has determined the project would alter the flow of the McCloud River and seriously impact its wild trout and broader ecosystem.

Becerra contends that the McCloud River is protected by the state’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, writing in his complaint that the law specifically forbids an agency like Westlands from “assisting or cooperating with” any project that violates it.

“This project is unlawful,” Becerra said in a statement. “It would create significant environmental and cultural impacts for the communities and habitats surrounding Shasta Dam.”

Those communities include the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, which says it will lose access to sacred ancestral sites if the dam’s raised.

Westlands Water District told reporters that it’s still conducting its own environmental review process before fully committing to the project.

Trump’s latest interior secretary, David Bernhardt, spent years as a lobbyist and consultant for Westlands. Bernhardt is facing congressional scrutiny and complaints to the Inspector General over allegations he continued lobbying for Westlands while working on the Trump transition team and as the deputy interior secretary.