Then presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Fresno in May 2016. Screenshot via YouTube user WCAMStudios
Written by The Business Journal Staff
President Donald Trump signed a memorandum Friday that local representatives said will help restore water deliveries to Central Valley growers.
Republican representatives Devin Nunes, David Valadao, Jeff Denham and Tom McClintock were among the group on hand for a press conference in Arizona where Pres. Trump signed the memo, afterward gifting the pen to Nunes, a key congressional ally running for re-election in November.
The memo seeks to make it easier for local water districts to import water from Northern California through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
But getting more water to farms, communities and wildlife refuges will not be immediate, said Mike Wade, executive director of the Sacramento-based California Farm Water Coalition.
The president is instructing his agencies to expedite environmental reviews of existing water infrastructure projects — the systems that deliver water from the Delta south to the west side or the Valley, most of which involve pumps and canals — he said Friday afternoon, adding that details of the president’s memorandum still were coming.
In addition, the president’s order directs federal officials to wrap up by the end of August 2019 the “re-consultation” of how water from the delta is being directed to comply with a series of federal court orders to restrict the amount of water being pumped from the delta and sent south that would otherwise be used by farms and communities downstream, and instead use that water to keep water levels in the delta up to protect threatened species, including Delta smelt.
This has long been a hot point of contention, particularly among farmers and communities in the Valley who say the water restrictions threaten them, particularly in drought years.
There is a re-consultation process under way with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of what’s been done so far with delta water to protect threatened species and determine in if those methods have been effective and what should change, said Wade, whose organization believes the review will show that more water can be released south without harming the endangered species.
The memo directs a review of water regulations and direction to “appropriately suspend, revise or rescind the respective regulations that unduly burden” the delivery of water in California, according to a senior administration official, as reported by The Sacramento Bee.
“Today’s order by President Trump will provide welcome relief to Western farmers, cities, rural communities and wildlife refuges that have struggled under water supply rules that are long overdue for an update,” according to a joint statement issued jointly by the California Farm Water Coalition, the Family Farm Alliance, the California Farm Bureau Federation and Western Growers Association.
“The deadline will bring to a close the review of rules governing the long-term operation of the federal Central Valley Project and California State Water Project,” which began in August 2016.
The move by the president is being painted as a “major political gift for GOP incumbents in some of the most competitive House races in the country where water supply is a top campaign topic,” according to a report from Politico.
“Now, with this executive action, there is a strict timetable for rewriting the biological opinions that lie at the root of the water crisis. This executive action also prioritizes building critical projects to expand water storage in our state so that we can store more water during wet years for use in dry years,” according to a joint statement from several congressional representatives that include Nunes, Valadao and Denham.