Trump orders quicker environmental review of California water projects

President Trump on Friday directed federal agencies to speed up their environmental review of major water projects in California and to develop plans to suspend or revise regulations that hamper water deliveries.

The directive will have little immediate practical effect. But it comes a bit more than two weeks before a midterm election in which some Central Valley Republicans are in close races to hold on to their congressional seats.

Railing against environmental regulations that have hurt water deliveries to the valley is a perennial GOP battle cry — and one that could give a political boost to Republican incumbents. But the presidential memo also illustrates the legal constraints that prevent the federal government from single-handedly sending more water to San Joaquin Valley growers.

The memo sets 2019 deadlines for the U.S. Interior and Commerce departments to issue updated environmental rules that govern water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta — the center of California’s sprawling water supply system.

The review of export limits under the Endangered Species Act started under the Obama administration, which signaled that the protections could grow more restrictive because populations of imperiled fish continue to plummet.

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