After meeting with California Governor Jerry Brown on April 13, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke issued a statement saying he “appreciated the positive and productive conversation” with Brown.
The Trump administration official said he and the governor discussed “public lands, water infrastructure and projects throughout California” that are managed by the Department of Interior.
One of the topics they talked about was Governor Brown’s controversial plan to build the Delta Tunnels. Zinke has not yet taken a formal position on the California WaterFix project, but you can bet that Brown was doing everything he could to convince him to officially support it.
Secretary Zinke noted that the Bureau of Reclamation spends more than a third of its budget in the state and “close coordination is essential to ensure reliable water supplies to communities, farmers, and businesses.”
“With more than 23 million acres of federally managed land in the state and Bureau of Reclamation projects that supply water and electricity to cities, farmers, and businesses, it is clear that we will be talking often,” said Zinke.
Neither Zinke or Brown’s Office indicated whether the Governor or Interior Secretary had initiated the meeting.
“Governor Brown and Secretary Zinke had a very cordial conversation today and there was a real recognition that California and the federal government are deeply interconnected when it comes to land and water management,” said Evan Westrup, Brown’s press secretary, in an email to the LA Times.
Delta and public trust advocates fear that Brown will try to make a deal with Zinke and other Trump administration officials to expedite the construction of the tunnels.
The Delta Tunnels project has come under increasing fire from scientists, economists and public trust advocates over the past few years. Brown claims that the California WaterFix, the controversial plan to divert Sacramento River water to agribusiness and Southern California water agencies through two 35-mile long tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, is based on “the best scientific thinking.” (www.sacbee.com/…)
Federal scientists strongly disagree with Brown’s claim that “best scientific thinking” supports the construction of the tunnels. In fact, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has released a draft biological opinion documenting the harm the tunnels would cause to Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, other fish and wildlife species, and water quality.
The draft biological opinion is available at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/central_valley/WaterFix/WaterFixPeerReview2BMaterials.html
After meeting with Brown, Secretary Zinke met with employees at Yosemite National Park.
On the following day, Zinke met with staff and leadership at Sequoia to discuss “a variety of issues including infrastructure, active management, and increasing access to public lands while also participating in a wildfire mitigation exercise,” the DOI said.
The U.S. Senate on March 1, 2017 confirmed then U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) as the nation’s 52nd Secretary of the Interior by a 68-31 vote. Zinke came to Congress in January 2014 after a 23-year career with the U.S. Navy.
In 2008, he was elected as a state senator, where he led the chamber’s Education and Cultural Resources Committee. During his tenure in Congress he served as a member of the House Natural Resources Committee.
Statement from U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke upon conclusion of his meeting with California Governor Jerry Brown
“I had the opportunity to meet this morning with California Governor Jerry Brown to discuss public lands, water infrastructure, and projects throughout California that are managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. I appreciated the positive and productive conversation with the governor.
“As Secretary, I am committed to ongoing conversations with state and local leaders, particularly in areas surrounding federally-managed parks, refuges, water infrastructure, and other holdings. We spend more than a third of our Bureau of Reclamation budget in the state and close coordination is essential to ensure reliable water supplies to communities, farmers, and businesses.
“I shared my intent to work with the Governor to help prevent and reduce risks that wildland fires can pose to homeowners, watersheds, and businesses in California communities. This includes strong management of federal land holdings. We also discussed ensuring a first-rate experience for the more than 40 million visitors expected to visit national parks in the state this year.
“With more than 23 million acres of federally managed land in the state and Bureau of Reclamation projects that supply water and electricity to cities, farmers, and businesses, it is clear that we will be talking often.”