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Executive Summary for November 11th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments in California including the impacts of the presidential election. We also look at a high-flow experiment on the Colorado River.

Published on Nov. 11, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Election Impacts on California Water

What does the election of Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s continued control over both the U.S. House and Senate mean for water issues in the West? Much remains to be seen, but some key themes are emerging.

President-elect Donald Trump doesn’t have a history on environmental policy issues – unlike most politicians – so as he takes office the possible impacts of his presidency can only be gleaned from what he said on the election trail and who could be contenders for cabinet positions.

When it comes to water issues in California, at several rallies in the Central Valley during the summer he told his audience he wanted to turn the tap on for farmers, but he failed to list any specific water-related policy statements.

The biggest impact to the region may come from his denial of man-made climate change. “Donald Trump’s presidential transition operation has recruited GOP energy lobbyist Mike McKenna and vocal climate skeptic Myron Ebell to run teams focused on the Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency respectively, according to people familiar with the hires,” reported Politico.

He has also called for the U.S. to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement on lowering global greenhouse gas emissions. “Trump has also said he would revive the coal industry, expand fossil fuel development, relax restrictions on energy production on public land and do away with the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which would reduce emissions from power plants,” the Los Angeles Times reported. All would have implications for both water quality and quantity in the West.

Prop 53 Defeated

Proposition 53, a California ballot initiative that threatened to derail Gov. Jerry Brown’s $17 billion plan to build new water conveyance tunnels in the Delta, was defeated by a narrow margin in Tuesday’s election.

Prop 53, which was supported by wealthy Stockton farmer Dean Cortopassi, sought to require Californians to vote on any infrastructure projects that would need more than $2 billion in general obligation bond funding. Voters struck it down by 51.4 percent to 48.6.

Proponents called it the “no blank checks” proposition.

Gov. Brown actively campaigned against the proposition, which threatened both his tunnels and high-speed rail plans. Other opponents said it could block critical infrastructure projects. Timothy Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, said in statement prior to the election: “In November 2014, Californians overwhelmingly passed Proposition 1 to move forward a wide range of water projects, vital water infrastructure that Proposition 53 threatens.”

High-Flow Experiments in Grand Canyon

A multi-agency experiment has conducted high-flow water releases from Glen Canyon Dam down the Colorado River into the Grand Canyon to provide ecological benefits to the river system.

The program is a partnership between the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.

“High-flow experiments benefit the Colorado River ecosystem through Glen and Grand canyons by moving sand in the river channel and redepositing it in downstream reaches as sandbars and beaches,” the Bureau of Reclamation said. “Those sandbars provide habitat for wildlife, serve as camping beaches for recreationists and supply sand needed to protect archaeological sites. High flows may also create backwater areas used by young native fishes, particularly the endangered humpback chub.”

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