Aerial view of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta. (California Department of Water Resources)

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The Trump administration said Wednesday that it will not support a massive water project proposed by California, the latest and most serious blow for Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to re-engineer the state’s water system by building two giant water tunnels.

“The Trump administration did not fund the project and chose to not move forward with it,” Russell Newell, spokesman for the U.S. Interior Department, said in an email.

Asked if that meant the Trump administration did not support California’s tunnels project, Newell said yes.

Brown wants California water districts to pay $16 billion to build two, 35-mile-long tunnels to divert part of the state’s largest river, the Sacramento, to supply water to the San Francisco Bay Area and central and Southern California.

The Obama administration backed the project, but the tunnels plan ran into its biggest obstacles yet last month, when two key water districts opted not to pay for it.

As a candidate, Donald Trump had called for water projects to bring more water to farmers in California, the country’s leading agricultural state.

The Trump administration has not previously taken a stand on the tunnels project pushed by California’s Democratic governor, though federal wildlife agencies gave their green light in June by finding that the plan would not mean extinction for endangered and threatened native species of salmon and other fish.

While the tunnels plan is a state initiative, it intersects with existing state and federal water projects in California, and would require approval from the Interior Department to go ahead.

Newell made his comments in response to a request by California Democratic members of Congress on Tuesday for a new federal probe of previous Interior Department spending on the tunnels project under the Obama administration.

Last month, an audit found that Interior officials under the Obama administration improperly spent $84 million in federal taxpayer money to help California pay for planning for the tunnels. On Tuesday, five California Democrats, including top opponents of the tunnels, asked the U.S. General Accountability Office to determine whether those payments were illegal.

“The $84 million spent in taxpayers’ money without disclosure to Congress and kept hidden from the public were decisions driven and executed by the Obama Administration and that team,” Newell said.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke “believes that using tax dollars wisely and ethically is a big responsibility and is at the heart of good government.”

Trump Opposes California’s Enormous Water Tunnels Project 25 October,2017KQED Science

  • Frank Panza

    Of course. Trump would screw the CA non-coastal voters who supported him simply to reverse Obama and Brown‘s judgments. Those voters deserve whatever Trump does to them as a punishment for being so morally and politically vacuous in voting for him.

  • solodoctor

    Not funding the Twin Tunnels project is very significant, of course. But the Interior Dept still has to rule on whether to approve the environmental report about the prospective damage the Tunnels might cause. It could approve the report but still refuse to provide any funds for the project. With Trump at the helm one cannot yet be certain what is going to happen.

  • Julie Reeder Del Fava

    I think it is time to take the politics out of this and be sure a decision is being made that supports biocultural diversity, ecosystems, environmental impacts and the potential hazards to the waterscapes of the bay area. It sounds like there have been some major concerns about this project for water districts to not support it. What is the impact of the water reduction to the Sacramento River? How are the salmon and other wildlife being protected? There is a deep connectivity amongst so many aspects of this potential project that need to be addressed before anyone, any President, any government approves its passing.

  • Edrease Mushtari

    In my opinion, governmental consultants and politicians should put aside whatever differences they have, and prioritize the thing that benefits generations to come as well society as a whole: the conservation of our environment! The financial aspect of this situation has become way too complicated; first, why not refer to the knowledge and history of the aboriginals in the surrounding regions (which should have been done initially– the land was originally theirs!)? One can learn quite a lot; the fundamentals of land management can be better understood through the various storyscapes of tribe members, and traditions such as life cycle rituals that are related to these waterscapes of Northern California.