Western ag interests got a presidential boost last week after Trump issued a memorandum aimed at funneling more water to farmers in California’s thirsty Central Valley. Also benefiting are several of the House Republicans running in competitive re-election races in the region, where water supply is a top campaign issue.
The politics: Vulnerable GOP incumbents now have an ag policy win they can tout in their farm-heavy districts. Jeff Denham, David Valadao and other California Republicans joined Trump for the memo signing Friday in Arizona. POLITICO rates Denham’s race as a toss-up and Valadao’s as leaning Republican.
Denham, a House Ag Committee member, said in a statement that bolstering the Valley’s water supply was his “number one priority.” Trump said the move “will move things along at a record clip.”
The policy: The memo sets an accelerated timeline for reviewing the environmental impact of dams and canals that pump water to California farmlands and cities, Pro Energy’s Annie Snider reported Friday.
Initial biological opinions related to California’s Central Valley Project will be due by Jan. 31, with a final joint opinion due 135 days later – a much swifter schedule than parties on the ground had expected.
Agriculture groups like the California Farm Water Coalition, Western Growers Association and California Farm Bureau Federation cheered the move as relief from burdensome water supply rules. Environmentalists and the state itself could still try to thwart the federal changes.
Beyond California: The directive takes aim at efforts to alter or remove hydropower dams along the Columbia and Snake Rivers in Washington state, which produce about half of all U.S. hydropower. It also speeds up the timeline for federal agencies to complete environmental reviews for water projects in Oregon’s Klamath River basin.
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