In a Memorandum dated October 19, 2018 and entitled Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West, the President has directed the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce to work together to minimize “unnecessary regulatory burdens and foster more efficient decision-making” so that major federal water projects are constructed and operated in a manner that delivers water and power in an “efficient, cost-effective way.” More specifically, they will take steps to streamline the western water infrastructure regulatory processes and remove unnecessary burdens in accordance with the timetables set forth in the Memorandum.
Within 30 days, they will identify major California projects for which these departments have National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA) responsibilities; designate one official to coordinate these compliance responsibilities; then, within 40 days, they will develop a timeline for completing applicable environmental compliance requirements; then ensure that the ongoing reviews of the Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project is completed, including a Record of Decision; take steps to issue formal biological opinions within 135 days of January 31, 2019, and these will be “joint opinions” if possible; and complete by August 2019 the joint consultation now underway for the Klamath Irrigation Project.
In addition, the Secretaries of the Interior, Commerce, Energy and the Secretary of the Army shall develop a schedule to complete the Columbia River Systems Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and the associated Biological Opinion by 2020 The schedule will be submitted to the Chair of the Commission on Environmental Quality (CEQ) on or about March 20, 2019.
The Memorandum notes that all of these actions must be permitted by law. Nevertheless, this action is another indication that there is some official concern with the pace and complexity of the existing federal environmental review process.