White House knocks Sen. Feinstein’s CA water compromise

feinstein-obamaPresident Obama has decided to side with Sen. Barbara Boxer and California environmentalists in their battle with Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Republicans over Golden State water policy.

On Monday, Feinstein announced that she had reached agreement with legislative leaders to place a provision providing $588 million for California water storage, desalination and recycling projects into the massive omnibus infrastructure bill that’s expected to pass Congress by year’s end. The deal also included a change in water allocation rules that would take some supplies away from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and give it to Central Valley farmers temporarily for five years.

The announcement prompted relief among Central Valley politicians, who had been fighting for just such changes for years only to be turned back by Senate Democrats.

Reflecting this history, Boxer — in her final month as a California senator — was the sharpest critic of Feinstein’s compromise. She said the deal threatened the health of the delta and could harm the salmon fishing industry and kill off the endangered Delta smelt.

But hopes that the logjam might have been broken blew up Tuesday when the Obama administration revealed it shared Boxer’s objections to the California provision.

“Based on what we know so far, we don’t support the kinds of proposals that have been put forward to address some of the water resources issues in California right now,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, according to McClatchy News. “So, we don’t support that measure that’s being put forward, but we’ll take a look at the bill in its totality.”

Prospects for water changes strong under Trump

This could doom the proposal in the short term. But given how popular the omnibus infrastructure has been in recent weeks among lawmakers eager for a big legislative triumph, it may pass over an Obama veto.

Whatever happens in the next six weeks, on Jan. 20, when Donald Trump takes over as president, the Central Valley is likely to have the most sympathetic president it’s had in the 50 years since the environmental movement began racking up victory after victory in Congress and the courts.

Trump made appearances in the Central Valley in May and August, the first time for a rally in Fresno and the second for a fundraiser in Tulare. At the rally, he expressed contempt for policies that he said favored fish over human needs. He also appears to have a good relationship with Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, who has been among the loudest critics of state and federal water policies’ effects on the Central Valley.

Nunes was reportedly under consideration for secretary of agriculture in the days after Trump’s surprise Nov. 8 election, but his name hasn’t been heard as much in recent days.

The favorite for the job may now be former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who recently met with Trump about the position. Perdue, like Nunes, is often skeptical of heavy environmental regulation and comes from a state that has often balked at global warming activism.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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