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Rep. Jeff Denham Could Be Next Interior Secretary; Delta Water Advocates Worry

DELTA (CBS13) — Outgoing Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) is now being considered to be the next U.S. Secretary of the Interior, CBS13 confirmed Wednesday. This follows the recent announcement that current interior secretary Ryan Zinke is leaving the job at the end of the year.

The department of interior manages the nation's natural resources. Denham focused on water as one of his critical issues in his time serving the Central Valley.

Problem is, in the Delta, he'll have to win over even the farmers. George Biagi is a third generation farmer. Biagi grows turf in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Business is good now that the drought's over, but he worries about a new water grab coming from Washington.

"They play us a lot of misinformation they put out," he said.

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Biagi's a Trump supporter and he supported Jeff Denham for Congress. He was very disappointed when Denham lost to Democrat Josh Harder.

Yet he's not sure what the outgoing congressman would do for his region if he gets the interior secretary job.

"I want him to keep the Delta the way it should be kept. And not pull so much water out of it!" he said.

Denham's office maintains that the Congressman is against the controversial Delta Tunnels plan. The plan that would make way for two massive tunnels to send water to the central valley and southern California.

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"We have a disconnect in California. Our farmers don't realize you have a system that's been oversubscribed five times," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, the executive director of Restore the Delta.

"He's one of those people who believes that climate change doesn't matter. That you build big 19th century solutions to water problems and that you move the water to where it exists to where it doesn't exist to protect business interests," she said.

Denham recently worked with President Trump to allocate more money for water storage projects in the San Joaquin Valley. But it's in the Delta, where he's riling up both environmentalists and farmers.

"It's not gonna be an easy road for whoever ends up in that chair no doubt about it," said CBS13 Political Analyst Gary Dietrich.

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