As reported today in the L.A. Times, an agreement was reached yesterday with the U.S. Government and Westlands. (The agreement must still be approved by Congress.)
For years Westlands has refused to pay it’s portion of the Central Valley Project (Delta water shipped to them) because the U.S. Gov’t was suppose to build a drain for their land. When it was discovered that their land was selenium-tainted (remember the Kesterson Bird Deformities?) it would have cost $3 billion to drain properly. That stalemate has been going on for years.
With the new settlement, reclamation bureau would be relieved of the court-ordered requirement to provide drainage to Westlands cropland. The district would permanently retire 100,000 acres of ill-drained fields and agree to a cap on water deliveries that amounts to 75% of its current contract amount. HOWEVER, the government will lift limits on the size of Westlands farms eligible for subsidized water deliveries. And it would give the district an open-ended water contract that wouldn’t be subject to periodic renewal or negotiation.
Westlands will, however, still be subject to shortage with junior water rights as they are now.
A solution to the water shortage is to close down the damaged Westlands Water District lands from farming. This agreement is going the wrong way.
Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) called it “an outrageous windfall for Westlands.”