Commerce Department Intervenes As Fires Burn

Anderson Fire photo by Cal Fire

 

Ever since President Trump issued two tweets regarding California’s latest surge in devastating and deadly wildfires, it created a bit an online frenzy to an already tragic story in the Golden State.

 

The two tweets have been challenged by multiple pundits regarding whether the state has adqequate water to fight blazes doing damage from Mendocino to Redding to the Sierra,  Today, the White House isn’t backing down. Here’s ABC News with more: 

The Department of Commerce announced a directive on Wednesday that says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is taking over management of water in California in areas affected by the ongoing fires.

The change announced Wednesday would allow federal agencies to expedite decisions about water under an emergency provision of the Endangered Species Act.

The directive specifically says that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which includes the National Marine Fisheries Service, will take over management of water during the wildfire emergency in California. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross directed the Service to tell other federal agencies “the protection of life and property takes precedence over any current agreements regarding the use of water in the areas of California affected by wildfires.”

“Today I directed the National Marine Fisheries Service to facilitate access to the water needed to fight the ongoing wildfires affecting the State of California. One of the fires, the Mendocino Complex Fire, has developed into the largest in the state’s history, consuming nearly 300,000 acres in Northern California. American lives and property are at stake and swift action is needed,” Ross said in a statement.

These are the statements from The Department of Commerce:

Statement from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross

As Secretary of Commerce, today I directed the National Marine Fisheries Service to facilitate access to the water needed to fight the ongoing wildfires affecting the State of California. One of the fires, the Mendocino Complex Fire, has developed into the largest in the state’s history, consuming nearly 300,000 acres in Northern California. American lives and property are at stake and swift action is needed.  The Department of Commerce is doing everything possible to help, with NOAA satellites providing vital weather information and National Weather Service employees providing on the scene information to fire officials.

 Directive Issued by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross

The California wildfires are a direct threat to life and property and all measures available must be taken to protect both. Today, I direct NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service to make clear to all its Federal agency partners that the protection of life and property takes precedence over any current agreements regarding the use of water in the areas of California affected by wildfires. Public safety is the first priority.  Consistent with the emergency consultation provisions under the ESA, Federal agencies may use any water as necessary to protect life and property in the affected areas. Based on this directive, NOAA will facilitate the use of water for this emergency. Going forward, the Department and NOAA are committed to finding new solutions to address threatened and endangered species in the context of the challenging water management situation in California.

Here’s reaction from the Golden Gate Salmon Association:

John McManus, President of the Golden Gate Salmon Association

“Today, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross ordered the National Marine Fisheries Service to take undefined actions intended to provide water that’s already available to firefighters. 

“Secretary Ross correctly points out that emergency provisions under the federal Endangered Species Act already allow firefighters to use any water needed to protect life and property threatened by wildfires, so it’s puzzling what additional action he’s asking federal employees to take. “

“We all agree public safety is the first priority. We disagree with Secretary Ross that the federal government should hijack California’s wildfires to impose weaker protections for our fish and wildlife.”

“A bill languishing in the state legislature, Senate Bill 49, would go a long ways towards confirming common sense protections for fish and wildlifewhile leaving firefighters, who know best how to fight fire, to do their jobs.”

 

 

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