More water for Central Valley farmers worth considering
The Trump administration announced Friday that it had begun an 18-month analysis of whether to provide California farmers more water from the Central Valley Project, the largest federal water project in the nation, honoring a promise that Donald Trump made on the campaign trail. “If I win, believe me, we’re going to start opening up the water so that you can have your farmers survive, so that your job market will get better,” Trump told supporters at a Fresno rally in May 2016.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta provides the drinking water for more than half of all Californians and irrigation to one of the world’s greatest farming regions, so it is crucial that federal and state water policies maintain its health. Protecting the endangered delta smelt and Chinook salmon is a proxy way of achieving that goal, but water allocations led to hundreds of thousands of acres of fallow fields in the Central Valley during the state’s recent five-year drought. In arguing that a better balance can be struck, the region’s leaders say environmental opposition to a revised policy is driven by disdain for farming as an industry, not just a desire to protect endangered species. Complicating things, state officials last week said a fall survey of Delta waters found the fewest smelt in 50 years.
Environmentalists have denounced the administration’s announcement as one more sign of its indifference to environmental protections — a well-founded concern in light of worrisome comments by the president and some of his aides, starting with Trump’s dangerous skepticism about climate change science. But given that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, hoped for an emergency order to immediately force new allocations, the Trump administration’s deliberate approach should be reassuring.