Central Valley farms could see increased water deliveries in future years if Trump administration officials have their way.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced plans Friday to “evaluate alternatives that maximize water deliveries” through the Central Valley Project. In a statement, the Bureau referenced “state and federal regulator actions” that have “significantly reduced the water available for delivery south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.”
Environmentalists Raise Concerns
CVP water originates in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta which is also the habitat for diminished populations of native salmon and other endangered species. Environmental advocates quickly raised concerns about the potential harm that additional water pumping from the delta would cause.
The action is “the latest attempt by the Trump administration to roll back protections for salmon and other endangered native fisheries … in order to increase water supplies” for agriculture, said Doug Obegi, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
But prominent Central Valley farmer Mark Borba welcomed the announcement. On Facebook, Borba wrote: GOOD RIDDANCE! “PEOPLE OVER FISH”. His post included a link to a news story reporting the lowest-ever recorded count of endangered Delta smelt in the waterway.
Candidate Trump Promised Action
During a 2016 campaign stop in Fresno, expressed the same sentiment. “You have a water problem that is so insane, so ridiculous where they are taking the water and shoving it out to sea.” Instead, he said, water is being used to “to protect a certain kind of 3-inch fish.” If elected, Trump said at the time, there would be more water for Valley farms.
The Bureau’s announcement offers the first direct example of the Trump administration’s approach to California water policy. But, the federal government must still work with the state officials to implement any proposed changes, which could be a challenge.
The State Water Resources Control Board, for instance, manages water rights in the delta and is dominated by appointees of Gov. Jerry Brown. Experts say powerful state laws give the water board authority to block pumping increases. In fact, the board is currently holding hearings on state proposals to reduce pumping in order to improve delta water quality.
You can read the Bureau of Reclamation’s news release seeking public input on the pumping proposal here. Comments are due by Feb. 1.