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November 27, 2018  |  Written by Jared S. Mueller

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Designate Paul Souza to Lead the Effort to Streamline Federal Procedures for Central Valley and Klamath Projects

On top of the traditional requirements of their livelihoods, farmers and ranchers must navigate a complex matrix of statutes, regulations, and case law pertaining to environmental protection and the multiple governmental agencies that are involved in administering state and federal laws.  These challenges are especially acute in the context of the water resources that farmers, ranchers, and their communities depend upon.  Issued on October 19, 2018, the President’s “Memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West” (Presidential Memorandum) required the Secretaries of the Department of the Interior and Department of Commerce to designate lead officials to oversee the streamlining of the regulatory processes to accomplish reliable water deliveries consistent with legal requirements.

The Presidential Memorandum, designed to address “fragmented regulation of water infrastructure” that is producing “inefficiencies, unnecessary burdens, and conflict among the Federal Government, States, tribes, and local public agencies that deliver water to their citizenry,” required the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce to identify major infrastructure projects in California and designate an official to coordinate the agencies’ Endangered Species Act (ESA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance responsibilities.  Specifically, the Presidential Memorandum directs the official to “identify regulations and procedures that burden the project[s], and develop a plan to suspend, revise, or rescind the regulations and procedures that unduly burden the project[s] beyond the degree necessary to protect the public interest or otherwise comply with law.”  The Presidential Memorandum defines “burden” to mean “unnecessarily obstruct, delay, curtail, impede, or otherwise impose significant costs on the permitting, utilization, transmission, delivery, or supply of water resources and infrastructure.”

Last week, Paul Souza, the Regional Director for the Pacific Southwest Region of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, was designated to fill this role for the Klamath Project and Central Valley Project, both of which are under the supervision of the United States Bureau of Reclamation.  Mr. Souza is regarded as a constructive and energetic problem-solver who deals with all interests fairly.

The Presidential Memorandum also imposed important deadlines for the federal agencies to complete ESA consultation under the ESA.

If you would like a copy of the Presidential Memorandum or additional information on the particular actions of the Department of the Interior or Department of Commerce, please contact Jared Mueller at jmueller@somachlaw.com.

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