On February 19, 2020, President Trump, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, and other federal officials met in Bakersfield, California, for the signing of a Presidential Memorandum seeking additional water for the Central Valley.
The memorandum instructs the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce to coordinate efforts to broaden their agencies’ actions, consistent with existing law, in order to ensure a reliable source of water for municipal and agricultural uses in the Central Valley. It also directs the Secretaries to fully implement recent administrative changes to the management of programs established under the Endangered Species Act. Agencies are taking different approaches to achieve these directives which are estimated to deliver 600,000 acre-feet of water to the San Joaquin Valley. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working collaboratively to improve technology and contemporize current water delivery systems. Other federal agencies are working on improving rainwater capture, storage systems, and regulations to provide increased certainty for water users in the valley, while at the same time taking measures to protect endangered species.
Environmental groups have expressed concerns that the changes will divert water away from these species to agricultural and municipal uses which instead could use already allocated water more efficiently. On the other hand, President Trump and Republican legislators hope that these changes will allow for more flexibility in water deliveries instead of allowing authorities to “flush[ed] millions of gallons into the Pacific.” In response, Governor Newsom told the Sacramento Bee that he would be taking legal action to protect more than a dozen endangered fish within the delta which are already close to extinction. Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, filed suit two days after Governor Newsom’s public statement.