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At first, when television news programming was interrupted to bring live coverage from a memo signing in Arizona by the president, the headlines made the heart hope that California’s water fights were going to end.
Not so fast, actually. What really happened was that President Donald Trump ordered Secretary Ryan Zinke of the Interior and Secretary Wilbur Ross of Commerce to speed up the review of federal water policies in California that are diverting the precious resource on the west coast away from farmland in favor of saving a bait fish that this writer’s relatives would step on if they caught one.
The memo sets 2019 deadlines for the U.S. Interior and Commerce departments to issue updated environmental rules that govern water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta — the center of California’s sprawling water supply system.
The review of export limits under the Endangered Species Act started under the Obama administration, which signaled that the protections could grow more restrictive because populations of imperiled fish continue to plummet.
Federal biologists could retreat from that, loosening export limits when they issue the new rules next spring. But if they do, the action will inevitably be challenged in the courts, which blocked a similar effort by the George W. Bush administration.
Things have been happening, but apparently, the federal government just can’t wave a magic wand and make an irrigated San Joquin Valley (Rep. Devin Nunes’s territory) happen without a lot of other red tape developed over years of government overreach.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke ordered the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees the Central Valley Project, and other Interior agencies to develop an “initial plan of action” that would — among other things — maximize water deliveries, streamline federal environmental reviews of project operations and prepare “legislative and litigation measures” to increase deliveries.
The efforts have been led by Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former partner in one of the nation’s top-grossing lobbying law firms, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. There, he represented the politically influential Westlands Water District, which would be among the chief beneficiaries of improved deliveries to south-of-delta Central Valley Project customers.
So, it looks like the Trump Administration is moving ahead with efforts to keep the west coast green and fertile for food growth. If only the voters in the big cities out there would understand why this is vital for their vitals, especially if they are vegan or vegetarian.