Perseverance in a wrong cause..

Submitted: Jan 15, 2016
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 ...doesn't make it right.

 

The federal Bureau of Reclamation began delivering water to Westlands in 1967, and up until the mid-1970s constructed some 70 miles of a planned 207-mile drain. Instead of reaching all the way to the Delta, it ended prematurely at Kesterson Reservoir. -- Michael Doyle, McClatchy, Jan. 12, 2016

 And that premature ending gave the public the opportunity to see and experience the horrendous damage caused by a high concentration of heavy metals and what it does to the wildlife that was supposed to have been protected on the federal Kesterson Wildlife Refuge.

 

The government’s failure to provide the drainage as part of building the Central Valley Project led to tainted soil and serious environmental problems. -- Michael Doyle, McClatchy, Nov. 11, 2015

 

How long is it going to be before naked corporate agriculture propaganda ceases to be published as fact in the McClatchy Company Chain's San Joaquin Valley outlets?  Some American farmers, in fact many American farmers we suspect, would look at a statement in a newspaper like that and wonder what on earth it means. That would be because they farm in places where farmers do not have to bury drain pipes under their fields to drain away highly concentrated heavy metals washed down by irrigation water provided by a federal water project that begins in a reservoir (Lake Shasta) 400 miles away. Many farmers, not to mention a host of scientists across a large variety of disciplines, regard farming in the Westlands Water District as an ecological disaster, period, that would be shut down by any governmenal resouce agency not in thrall to a gaggle of bribed public officials. The huge landholdings and highly mechanized agricultural operations means that the Westlands employs very few farmworkers and enriches very few corporations and astronomical public expense, including the constant environmental damage. -- blj

 

 

 

 

1-12-16

McClatchy

Clashes on California water resume in DC with introduction of drainage bill

Bill would codify an agreement that was announced in September

Under its terms, Westlands Water District’s federal debt would be forgiven

Westlands would assume responsibility for paying claims against federal government

Michael Doyle

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/congress/article54372275.html

 

 

 

 

WASHINGTON 

U.S. lawmakers from California have more political turbulence ahead of them with the introduction Tuesday of a bill to settle a long-running San Joaquin Valley irrigation drainage dispute.

The legislation by Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, would implement a sweeping drainage settlement reached between the Obama administration and the Westlands Water District. It also reignites some of the same regional and partisan conflicts that have dogged past water bills.

“This legislation is necessary to approve and authorize the drainage settlement,” Valadao said, adding that it “has the potential to save taxpayers billions of dollars.”

The 19-page bill essentially matches the terms of a legal settlement announced last September. It relieves the federal government of the obligation to provide irrigation drainage to Westlands farms. The government’s failure to provide the drainage as part of the Central Valley Project network of reservoirs and canals led to tainted soil and serious environmental problems.

In return, the 600,000-acre Westlands district will retire at least 100,000 acres of farmland. The nation’s largest water district will also receive a potentially advantageous new type of contract and have its own remaining $375 million debt to the government forgiven, among other changes.

Westlands would gain title to an array of canal facilities and buildings, under the bill, and would also assume responsibility for paying landowner claims currently made against the federal government.

“Ensuring taxpayer dollars go towards meaningful projects, such as increased water storage rather than fighting unnecessary litigation, is the responsible and most efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” Valadao said.

But in a sign of clashes to come, as well as a reminder of perennial congressional vexations, Valadao’s bill drew immediate fire from Democrats in the House of Representatives who represent portions of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and who have long fought Westlands.

“I oppose this bill, or any legislation, that would codify principles that benefit the nation’s largest water district at the expense of taxpayers and the environment,” said Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton.

Three other House Democrats joined McNerney last September in criticizing the legal settlement, with Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, calling the agreement a “bad deal.”

The legal settlement, and the legislation introduced Tuesday, in turn, are the unanticipated progeny of water decisions made long ago.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation began delivering water to Westlands in 1967, and up until the mid-1970s constructed some 70 miles of a planned 207-mile drain. Instead of reaching all the way to the Delta, it ended prematurely at Kesterson Reservoir.

Federal officials now peg the constantly escalating cost of completing that drainage system at upward of $3.5 billion.

The bill introduced Tuesday faces several hurdles. Though the Republican-controlled House could conceivably launch it relatively quickly, California water legislation often bogs down on Capitol Hill.

After an 18-year legal battle, for instance, negotiators reached a deal in September 2006 to restore salmon to the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam. Legislation implementing the settlement was first introduced in December 2007.

In March 2009, the San Joaquin River legislation finally reached the White House as part of a larger package.

For the past several years, California water legislation intended to address the state’s drought has foundered over disagreements between House Republicans and California’s Democratic senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

Neither Feinstein nor Boxer has yet introduced similar irrigation-drainage legislation in the Senate. On Tuesday, four months after the Justice Department and Westlands announced their settlement, both senators indicated they were still reviewing the ensuing legislation.

“We . . . will be getting feedback from all the stakeholders,” Boxer’s spokesman Zachary Coile said.

1-11-15

A San Joaquin Valley irrigation drainage settlement is reached, but questions remain

Interior Department to finalize deal with Westlands Water District

Congressional critics blast secrecy and demand details

After deal gets signed Tuesday, Congress must weigh in

BY MICHAEL DOYLE

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/congress/article34966890.html

 

WASHINGTON 

A top Interior Department official next Tuesday will sign a San Joaquin Valley irrigation settlement with the Westlands Water District, signaling the end of a long-running legal battle, but marking the start of a hot new political fight.

After years of wrangling, negotiators agreed to a deal that absolves the federal government of the responsibility to provide irrigation drainage to farms in thte Westlands district. The government’s failure to provide the drainage as part of building the Central Valley Project led to tainted soil and serious environmental problems.

In return, according to lawmakers briefed on the deal Friday, the 600,000-acre Westlands district will retire at least 100,000 acres of farmland. The nation’s largest water district will also receive a potentially n advantageous new type of contract and have its own remaining debt to the government forgiven, among other changes.

“The settlement agreement means that there is finally a reasonable solution to a long festering problem that began when the U.S. government determined that it was not going to complete drainage service to the San Luis Unit of the Central Valley Project,” said Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif.

Westlands officials will sign the agreement after the Interior Department, in advance of a court hearing scheduled for Wednesday, according to lawmakers briefed Friday.

 “The Department of Interior, the Department of Justice and Westlands have been working diligently,” Westlands General Manager Thomas W. Birmingham said in an interview Friday, adding that he was “hopeful” that the settlement will be finalized.

But while Costa called the settlement agreement a “a reasonable compromise considering the significant financial obligation that now faces the U.S. taxpayer,” lawmakers from Northern California who represent portions of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta decried both the deal and what they call the secrecy surrounding it.

“It doesn’t look good,” Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., said in an interview Friday. “Westlands is getting another sweetheart deal.”

With rumors of an impending settlement swirling for many months, McNerney in late July led other Northern California Democrats in asking the Interior Department for more information. On Friday, Interior Department officials responded with an hour-long briefing for three House members. The congressmen could ask questions, but were not given copies of the settlement.

“It was totally unsatisfactory,” Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., said in an interview. “The information they gave us was four years old.”

The third House member in the Friday briefing, Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., added that he was “disappointed” that Interior Department officials “apparently want to shield this from public disclosure for as long as possible.”

The Interior Department could not be reached to comment Friday.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation began delivering water to Westlands in 1967, and up until the mid-1970s constructed some 70 miles of a planned 207-mile drain. Instead of reaching all the way to the Delta, it ended prematurely at Kesterson Reservoir.

The cost of completing a drainage solution has now been pegged at upwards of $2.7 billion.

General terms of the settlement have been circulating for some time. These previously public draft proposals include Westlands assuming responsibility for drainage, exempting Westlands from acreage limitations and relieving the water district from its obligation to repay the rest of the capital costs for construction.

The settlement will need to be enacted through legislation approved by Congress, adding another wrinkle to what’s already been a complicated journey. Separately, the House and Senate are considering California water legislation responding to the Western drought, although the drainage settlement could end up being tacked on to some other bill.

 

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