President Donald Trump on Feb. 19 signed a memorandum to develop and deliver more water supplies in the Central Valley and Southern California.
Speaking to local farmers and supporters in Bakersfield, the president called the state’s previous water policy a “disgrace.”
“After decades of failure and delays in ensuring critical water access for the people of this state, we are determined to finally get your problem solved. As a candidate for president, I promised to help the water crisis crippling our farmers due to chronic mismanagement and misguided policies,” Trump said.
The Trump administration, Republican lawmakers, and farm and water agencies say the changes will allow for more flexibility in water deliveries.
According to PBS, California’s heavily engineered water system is made up of giant state and federal water projects stretching hundreds of miles of pipes, canals, pumps, and dams, which carry runoff from rain and Sierra Nevada snowmelt from north to south.
Trump has long criticized the environmental rules governing the flow of water in California, which are meant to ensure that enough water stays in rivers and the San Francisco Bay to sustain more than a dozen endangered fish and other native species.
Supporters, mainly made up of farming groups and Central Valley politicians, have hailed Trump’s proposal as a breakthrough that would provide much-needed water to California’s agricultural industry. The plan could also boost water deliveries to Southern California urban areas.
However, critics, including environmental groups and fishing groups, say the changes could push winter-run salmon and other endangered species to the brink of extinction and could potentially spur lawsuits.
Following Trump’s announcement, Senate Republican leader Shannon Grove said: “By keeping his word to farmers, President Trump has shown his commitment to securing a safe and reliable food supply for American families.
“I appreciate President Trump’s commitment to the biological opinions that support water delivery and sound infrastructure. This is an opportunity for the governor and the president to work together to support California’s farmers and families by investing in sound water projects.
“When water flows, food grows. Our farmers must have access to the water they need to ensure food security for American families.”
Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he will “file legal action in the coming days … to protect highly imperiled fish species close to extinction,” ahead of Trump’s signing of the memorandum.
In a recent letter to the Interior Department, Newsom acknowledged that Valley farmers need more water and pledged to continue negotiating to reach a compromise with officials.