Our Responds to Westlands Water District Secret Settlement

Restore the Delta Responds to Westlands Water District Secret Settlement; Trawl Survey Shows Delta Smelt Population At All Time Low           Taxpayers Should Not Have to Shoulder Westlands’ Water District’s Debt Or Give Up More Water While System Is At Risk

Sacramento, CA – Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build Peripheral Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today responded to the prospect of a secret settlement of the debt Westlands Water District owes to US taxpayers and the near extinction presently of Delta smelt.

Statement by Restore the Delta Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla:            “The idea that the Westlands Water District can secretly negotiate a settlement with the Federal Government that secures Westlands’ water rights, by circumventing state water rights, and that lets Westlands walk away from hundreds of millions of dollars of debt that they owe to U.S. taxpayers is incomprehensible.  Worse, Westlands is not being required to document how they will continue to farm without belching polluted discharge water back into the watershed, or how their farmers will pay for the approximate $2 billion that it will cost to fix their drainage issues.

American taxpayers should not be on the hook to subsidize water profits for 600 rich farming corporations.  Westlands should not be given Federal entitlements to water right seniority over California farmers who were in production decades before Westlands farmers, especially during times of water scarcity, as during this drought. It seems that Westland’s extensive lobbying and media efforts are buying the best government available in Washington.

“This is especially disturbing considering the recent numbers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Fall Midwater Trawl Survey show that the Delta Smelt population has reached a new record low.  The smelt, which was once the most abundant fish in the Bay-Delta Estuary, is an indicator species, meaning that it demonstrates the health of the Bay-Delta estuary. The species is nearly extinct; other Bay-Delta fisheries are in rapid decline, and nobody is thinking about the economic damage that will be inflicted on commercial fisheries and their connected economies resulting from the over pumping of the Delta.

“While Westlands continues to push Federal legislation for increased water exports at the pumps during the drought, enhanced water rights through secret negotiations, an unrestricted license to pollute, and their bills paid by American taxpayers, the Delta ecosystem is unraveling.

“Westlands leaders will never be satisfied until they have all the water they want, when they want, without any restrictions, despite the economic and environmental consequences for the rest of California.  They want the Delta tunnels so they can take as much water from Northern California as quickly as possible, and without the tunnels they want laws passed that simply let them muscle their way to the front of the line, even before the fish, to take all the water they want.  They talk about feeding the world and their economic importance to the nation – which in reality is 0.3% of California’s GDP.  The truth is that their free hand of the marketplace is in our back pockets grabbing our tax dollars and the future sustainability of the Bay-Delta estuary for California’s children.

“We are calling on the Bureau of Reclamation and the Obama Administration to make public the details of these secret negotiations, and to bring all impacted parties to the table to work on California’s water challenges in a manner that supports the enforcement of existing laws.”

For Immediate Release: Monday, January 12, 2015
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546; steve@hopcraft.com; Twitter: @shopcraft; @MrSandHillCrane; Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 barbara@restorethedelta.org; Twitter: @RestoretheDelta

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