Meadows Field Airport was packed as thousands of people awaited President Donald Trump’s arrival, after he announced to deliver on his promise for providing water to the farms in San Joaquin Valley. The president signed a document from the Department of the Interior to increase the water flow from the Delta to California’s Southern regions. “Increasing the fresh drinking water supply is a high priority for all of California, especially in light of the coronavirus global pandemic” stated the Scott J Cooper Council
Trump revealed that he had proposed billions to improve and rebuild the water infrastructure in the Valley. He promised that the Californian farmlands would become green and beautiful soon.
The president’s visit has been seen as a celebration of the Valley’s agriculture. A tractor and farm equipment was positioned near the stage inside the JACO hangar, whereas VIPs like the local FFA students were sitting on a riser behind the stage.
Trump paid respects to two Porterville firefighters who got killed while putting down a fire in the city. Trump’s address ended with a tribute to the American farmers. He stated:
“America is a nation built by farmers, who work hard to provide for their families, support their neighbors, and draw out God’s abundance from the Earth. You pour out your sweat and soul, you pour out your heart, you really do. You’re incredible people. You work so hard, and you’re smart as hell.”
Support Pours in for Trump
Johnny Amaral from the Friant Water Authority came forward to support Trump. He noted that unlike his predecessors, Trump had taken a strong interest in California’s water problem. He is confident that Trump can resolve the woes for both the fish and people.
Former Rep. David Valadao, who appeared at the event, reminisced of Trump signing the water memorandum in Arizona in 2018 wherein he instructed the Department of Interior to make progress in expediting the environment reviews for western projects. He was excited to hear about the recent announcement from Trump and believed that this development would benefit the Central Valley, both the community and farmers.
Jim Patterson, an assembly member, pointed out the enormous contrast between the federal government and Gavin Newsom’s policies. He termed the policies of the latter as “schizophrenic and praised the efforts of the federal government to provide more water to the farmers.” He hoped that the state government could follow the administration.
An Unfriendly Host
Governor Gavin Newsom has not been the friendliest of hosts. He responded to president’s visit with a threat, suing the Trump administration for their plan to allow more water to the San Joaquin Valley. In less than 24 hours, Newsom’s administration went ahead and took action. Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined hands with two state agencies and initiated legal proceedings against Trump’s administration. They claimed that Trump’s water plan is detrimental to the Central Valley steelhead and Chinook salmon—populations of the Delta smelt. It also violates the federal environmental law.
Newsom warned that he planned to sue Trump just before the latter made an appearance in Bakersfield to reveal his administration’s progress on an order. The order eliminates regulatory barriers and empowers the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta pumps to provide more water to the southern half of California.
This is not the first time Newsom has locked horns with Trump. He has sued the president for everything, from immigration to air population. Last fall, he was critical of Trump’s water plan. Still, the democratic side has made some efforts to align with Trump on the water issue. He sent a letter to the Interior Department and acknowledged the need for water by the Valley farmers and pledged to negotiate with the federal officials.
Newsom is raising support for a grand compromise plan. The objective is to allocate rivers flows that are formed to preserve the dwindling fish populations. Newsom is confident that his plan can put an end to decades of water wars in California.
However, some farm irrigation agencies oppose the proceedings. Agencies such as the Westlands Water District in Fresno, one of the most powerful and influential farm irrigation agency, has refused to take part in the compromise talks if the governor follows through his promise of suing Trump’s water plan. Tom Birmingham, the agency’s general manager, asked the government to “assess the situation” as the farm district negotiates on Newsom’s compromise. He explained that they are close to reaching an agreement, which means if Newsom moves forward, it can put all their hard work into waste.
At the moment, the majority of the environmentalists are unconvinced about the river-flow compromise. They are backing the government to take Trump to court and challenge his water plan.
Environmentalists point to the sheer power of the Delta pumps; it is powerful enough to change the natural water flows in the estuary. This can also divert migratory fish to the predators and the pumps. There are also fears that the additional pumping will not help the cause of the endangered species in the Delta smelt.
John McManus from the Golden State Salmon Association remarked that Trump’s controversial water deal takes control of more Northern Californian water. This puts the salmon industry, employing thousands of Californians, at risk.
Meanwhile, Trump criticized Newsom, claiming that the state government can easily replicate Trump’s policy “with the flick of a hand.” He added that despite the abundance of water in California, the state has no idea what to do with it.
The Rising Focus on Water in California
It is a busy period for the water management authorities in the San Joaquin Valley. Just a day before Trump’s visit; Rep. Devin Nunes organized a water form in Tulare Country with support from David Bernhardt, the leading administration of federal waterways.
Last month, two Democratic congressmen brought two pieces of water legislation into the limelight: the Western Water Storage Infrastructure Act and Conveyance Capacity Correction Act. The congressman described the objective of the legislation to repair the water infrastructure and aging canals in California.
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