By Dan Elliott and Jonathan J. Cooper / Associated Press
DENVER — President Donald Trump on Friday ordered the government to speed up environmental reviews and streamline regulations that he says are hindering work on major water projects in the Western United States.
Trump signed a memorandum aimed at helping the Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project in California, the Klamath Irrigation Project in Oregon and the Columbia River Basin system in the Pacific Northwest.
“We will resolve the issues blocking the completion of the Central Valley project,” Trump said in Arizona during a swing through Western states. “I hope you enjoy the water that you’re going to have.”
The announcement is a boost for endangered Republican lawmakers in California’s Central Valley facing tough challenges from Democrats looking to take control of the U.S. House.
Officials did not discuss specific work that the administration aims to speed up for any of the projects. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages most federal water projects in the West, referred questions to the Interior Department. That department did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The Central Valley Project is a federally managed water storage and delivery system that primarily benefits agricultural users in California’s rich farming country in the center of the state.
The State Water Project serves agricultural and urban water users, including Los Angeles and much of sprawling Southern California.
The Klamath Irrigation Project is in California and Oregon.
The Columbia River system includes the Columbia Basin Project, which serves about 1,050 square miles of farmland in east central Washington. The project includes the Grand Coulee Dam and three power plants.
The president’s announcement is likely to inflame an ongoing battle in California over divvying up water between cities, farms and environmental needs like the protection of fish.
Farming interests have long pushed to raise Shasta Dam, which holds back California’s largest reservoir as part of the Central Valley Project, by more than 18 feet. The project is opposed by environmentalists who say it would harm threatened fish species and by the Winnemem Wintu tribe, which says it would flood sacred sites.
Several other dams are proposed including Sites Reservoir near Sacramento and Temperance Flat Dam north of Fresno.
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