In Bakersfield on Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an order to divert water in northern California from the San Francisco Bay area to the Central Valley.
More water going to the Central Valley
The move is designed to help farmers and ranchers in the San Joaquin Valley get access to more water after years of inadequate amounts of water and generally poor water quality. The order was widely seen as likely since in the last several months protections on some central and northern California fish populations, such as the chinook salmon, were lifted in October of last year as California Globe reported.
“A major obstacle to providing water for the region’s farmers has now been totally eliminated by the federal government,” President Trump said on Wednesday at a Bakersfield press conference announcing his decision. “For too long water authorities have flushed millions of gallons into the Pacific. I ordered the administration to update outdated opinions which determined water allocation in this state.”
Trump was joined by local Congressmen Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), and State Sen. Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), whose districts stand to gain from greater water access, as well as Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who was instrumental in changing rules and regulations regarding California water issues like environmental protections and drought concerns.
And although a California drought in 2020 is being seen as more and more likely by experts, Trump went around those concerns later in the press conference.
“It would be different if you had a drought,” added Trump. “You don’t have a drought. You have tremendous amounts of water.”
A measure that has been fought for for decades in the Central Valley
Trumps announcement led to polarized reactions on Wednesday and Thursday.
Farmers, ranchers, food suppliers, and many Central Valley residents applauded the water diversion, a promise Trump had made to the state four years ago.
“This has been something we’ve needed for a long time,” explained San Joaquin Valley farmer Cody Williams to the California Globe. “The water we’ve been getting hasn’t been cutting it for years. Only a few politicians have listened to us and we’ve largely had to fight this ourselves. Along Interstate 5 and Highway 99 and really any major road, we’ve put out signs trying to equate the water we get with feeding California, but they’ve kept the water for themselves up north.”
“We’re finally getting what we need. It’s finally good to see a politician keep a promise.”
“You know, a lot of other people in this state see us as crazy for supporting Trump. But he listened to us and made it happen and saved a lot of us here today. The food we grow goes to San Francisco and other cities and keeps those that don’t like him alive. That’s why we support him. He kept his word.”
Congressman McCarthy had echoed those praises while introducing Trump in Bakersfield saying, “Isn’t it great to have a president who understands farming is not easy? Isn’t it great to have a president who keeps his promises?”
Environmental concerns over the water diversion
Detractors against the signing come from many Californians affected by the diversion as well as state environmental experts.
“There’s the upcoming drought to worry about,” began Candace Clark, a hydrologist who has studied water usage in many parts of California and Nevada. “There’s going to be less on reserve for when they’ll really need it. But there’s also concern over fish populations. Chinook salmon here have been declining in recent years because of water usage, and this is only going to hurt them more. And that’s just one species.”
“This is shortsighted. Yes, the farmers need water, but so do people and wildlife. You’re screwing over years of protections and calculated usage. If we don’t get an increased snowpack or above average rain we might have done ourselves in here for the next couple of years.”
Others have seen this as political favoring.
“The water is going to Visalia and Bakersfield, which is prime Republican land,” noted San Francisco conservationist Doug Small. “He’s rewarding people like McCarthy for supporting him in California. And look where the water is going away from. The San Francisco Bay. Democrats. Also where a lot of Trump’s enemies like Nancy Pelosi live.”
“It isn’t just coincidence. This is a message.”
While it’s not known if this was an intended affect, Trump did go after Californian democrat leadership in his Wednesday speech.
“After decades of failure and delays in ensuring critical water access for the people of this state, we are determined to finally get your problem solved,” stated Trump.
California may fight back against the federal diversion
The state itself has vowed to fight the changes citing that they know what’s best for the state and that federal intervention would cause more harm than good for the state overall.