On Friday, October 19, President Trump signed an executive memorandum that will streamline the environmental permitting process for water projects in California that divert water from the northern part of the State to the Central Valley.  The memo instructs the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior to minimize unnecessary regulatory burdens that impede construction on new water projects.  

The executive memo directs the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior to identify major water infrastructure projects in California that fall under the regulatory authority of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  For each such project, the Secretaries will designate a government official to oversee the regulatory review process, identify unnecessary burdens to the project, and propose a plan to suspend or rescind any such regulations that are unduly burdensome to the project.

The Secretaries of Commerce and Interior will conduct a review of the Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project and issue an updated Plan of Operations and Record of Decision.  The Secretaries will also issue a final assessment of the environmental impacts of the Central Valley and California State Water Projects no later than January 31, 2019.

The Secretaries of Commerce and Interior will also complete a joint consultation for the Klamath Irrigation Project along the Oregon-California border by August 2019.

The executive memo seeks to increase water delivery to the Central Valley but Governor Jerry Brown is expected to file a lawsuit to block the pumping under ESA protections.  The memo is seen as a political move by the Trump Administration to bolster Republican campaigns in California’s Central Valley.  When President Trump signed the proposal he was joined by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and California House Republicans Tom McClintock (R-Roseville), Devin Nunes (R-Visalia), Jeff Denham (R-Modesto), and David Valadao (R-Hanford), who support the measure.