Obama signs California’s massive water bill, but Trump will determine its future

BY MICHAEL DOYLE

mdoyle@mcclatchydc.com

 

 

WASHINGTON

President Barack Obama on Friday quietly signed and bequeathed to President-elect Donald Trump a massive infrastructure bill designed to control floods, fund dams and deliver more water to farmers in California's Central Valley.

While attempting to mollify critics’ concerns over potential harm to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Obama signed the $12 billion bill in a distinctly low-key act. The still-controversial California provisions were wrapped inside a package stuffed with politically popular projects, ranging from Sacramento-area levees to clean-water aid for beleaguered Flint, Michigan.

“It authorizes vital water projects across the country to restore watersheds, improve waterways and flood control, and improve drinking water infrastructure,” Obama stated, adding that “help for Flint is a priority for this administration.”

Dubbed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, the bill passed both House and Senate by veto-proof margins following years of maneuvering and debate. Obama’s signature was never really in doubt, though administration officials had previously resisted some of the specific California provisions.

These provisions, which include more pumping of water through the Delta for farmers, will now be implemented by an incoming Trump administration that appears agribusiness-friendly. Trump’s Interior Department transition team has included a lawyer who until Nov. 18 was a registered lobbyist for the Westlands Water District, a supporter of the much-lobbied bill.

Westlands reported spending more than $3 million on federal lobbying since 2011, the year Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, introduced the first version of a California water bill inspired by the state’s drought. Myriad other California water districts and associations likewise weighed in on the bill over the past five years, helping shape its often-technical language.

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Chris Alexakispolicy, water