Clout can be defined in many ways. In California’s parched Central Valley farmlands, it’s the ability to secure water.
By that measure, the giant Westlands Water District has just set a whole new standard. In a legal settlement signed Wednesday with federal officials following lengthy negotiations, the 600,000-acre district secured a water supply for its members’ almond and pistachio trees and other crops in perpetuity, immunizing it from many of the cutbacks that may afflict other water users as climate change and other conditions reduce the reliability of California’s overall water supply. And it was all done in secret.
Although outlines of the settlement have circulated in Washington for months, environmental advocates and several Northern California members of Congress say the details were kept confidential until the deal was signed by Westlands and the Department of Justice, and filed as a fait accompli in federal court — including draft legislation shortly to be submitted to Congress.
“This was all done without any visibility or transparency,” says Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton), whose district includes part of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which is heavily affected by water deliveries to Westlands.
Source: Michael Hiltzik, LA Times, September 18, 2015