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Next Round in Trump vs. California Fight: Water

Shasta Dam (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

The next battle between the State of California and the Trump administration — after clashes over the environment, “sanctuary” laws, and the border wall, to name a few — will be over water.

The Trump administration is embracing a proposal to raise the height of the Shasta Dam in Northern California, the Los Angeles Times notes, to provide additional water storage to the thirsty Golden State.

But California’s government is trying to stop the project, thanks largely to the influence of environmental groups that have staunchly opposed the construction or expansion of dams in recent decades. A local Native American tribe, the Winnemem Wintu, also opposes raising the dam.

The dam was first built during the latter years of the Great Depression, and was completed in 1945.

The state’s farming interests are intensely interested in the project. The Westlands Water District, which represents farmers in the relatively dry western portion of the agricultural Central Valley, is hoping that new water from the Shasta Dam will replace water that has been lost to state restrictions and to a federal judicial mandate that flushes water out to sea to protect the endangered San Joaquin Delta smelt.

As the Times notes, a former lobbyist for Westlands, David Bernhardt, is now Deputy Secretary of the Interior. And Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who represents part of the southern Central Valley, is in a position to bring farmers’ concerns to the fore.

Breitbart News reported several years ago that California Republicans were pushing for the Shasta Dam to be raised even under the Obama administration.

In an interview in 2014, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) complained to Breitbart News that the federal and state governments were both opposed to increasing water storage in California. “We are being governed by people who are out of their minds,” he said.

As Breitbart News noted, “McClintock suggested raising the height of the Shasta Dam from the current 600 feet to 800 feet, as originally designed. That, he said, would add nine million acre-feet to its existing storage capacity–double its present volume.”

The dam is located on federal land. But state law prohibits raising it. The federal government is pushing ahead with the project, regardless.

That means the clash will ultimately come down to the Constitution — and the courts.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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