[env-trinity] Manson Again

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Tue May 11 15:25:21 PDT 2010

Former Bush officials find work with leading player in state water wars

By Mike Taugher Contra Costa Times

Posted: 05/10/2010 03:28:19 PM PDT

Updated: 05/11/2010 07:04:12 AM PDT

A former Bush administration official whose tenure was marked by systematic
attempts to weaken endangered species protections has gone to work for a
powerful California farm district that has the same aim in the Delta.

Craig Manson, assistant Interior Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks
from 2001 through 2005, now serves as general counsel for the Westlands
Water District, the nation's largest irrigation district.

He joins another former high ranking Interior Department official in the
Bush Administration, Jason Peltier, who since 2007 has been the No. 2
official there.  Manson's deputy at the Bush Interior Department, Julie
MacDonald, has been consulting for Westlands in a lawsuit involving
endangered species, according to district general manager Tom Birmingham.

The hirings come as Westlands struggles to maintain its water supplies
during the Delta environmental collapse Delta largely blamed on water
deliveries.  Westlands is ground zero in the conflict between water supplies
and the needs of the Delta ecosystem because when water is cut, Westlands
farmers often take the first hit. That's because the district, formed in the
1950s, has, in effect, a lower priority claim on water than regions that
have been around longer.

During last year's drought, Westlands was by far the state's most heavily
affected region. Although drought was the bigger cause of its water
shortages, Westlands problems were compounded by environmental rules
protecting endangered fish and a 1990s law that shifted water from farms to
the Delta environment.

Westlands and other water agencies sued last year to ease restrictions meant
to protect Delta smelt, salmon and other fish. A ruling in is expected soon.
"He (Manson) is uniquely qualified to be the district's general counsel,"
said Birmingham. "The district is incredibly lucky to have him with the
issues we have been dealing with in the last 20 years."
Critics said the move shows how cozy Bush's Interior Department became with
the industries it regulated.

"This is one of the longest-running abuses of the Bush administration's
revolving door I have ever seen," said Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez. "When
they were officials in the Interior Department, they worked with their
industry friends to tamper with scientific evidence and violate the law, and
they helped send the Bay-Delta into a tailspin."
"Now," Miller added, "the whole gang is working together again to file
lawsuits against efforts to restore California's salmon fishery."

Manson said he had intended to remain a professor at McGeorge School of Law
in Sacramento, where he has been since 2006, but that "circumstances and
opportunities came along."
He defended his tenure at Interior, saying, "We insisted there be good
science behind every decision that was made."

He rejected the idea that he was passing through a revolving door, noting
that he worked for government before going to the Interior Department and
was in academia before he joined Westlands.

Still, three investigations by the Interior Department's inspector general
found MacDonald's activities, with Manson's support, "caused considerable
harm to the integrity of the (Endangered Species Act) program," to the
morale of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and possibly harm to
endangered species, inspector general Earl E. Devaney wrote in December

"Her (MacDonald's) heavy-handedness has cast doubt on nearly every ESA
decision issued during her tenure," he wrote. "MacDonald's conduct was
backed by the seemingly blind support of (Manson.)

MacDonald declined to comment.  "She's incredibly bright, she's detail
oriented, she gets right to the nub of it. There are people who don't like
that," Manson said.
MacDonald resigned in April 2007, a month after the first of the
investigations found numerous questionable actions, including leaking an
email to the California Farm Bureau that it used in its unsuccessful lawsuit
to remove Delta smelt from the endangered species list.

A follow-up story by the Contra Costa Times showed MacDonald also
participated in an unprecedented decision to remove Sacramento splittail
from the list of endangered species even though that decision directly
affected her property near Dixon.

The inspector general's office later confirmed she heavily edited the
splittail decision and it forwarded the findings to federal prosecutors, who
declined to press charges.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened the splittail question and will
decide by September whether the fish should be put back on the threatened
and endangered species list.

Mike Taugher covers the environment. Contact him at 925-943-8257.


Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land/fax (call first to fax)

415 519 4810 mobile

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

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