In case you missed it: News of Interest on Westlands Water District & Met's Purchase

Restore the Delta: news of interest: 3/11/2016

Dear friends,
Don’t forget to sign our petition telling Metropolitan Water District of SoCal (Met) to reconsider their Delta islands purchase — we need as many signatures as we can get by April 20th. Met will be holding a special meeting on the Delta islands purchase in April, they have put a down payment on the islands and are in escrow — but they have the ability to walk away from the deal.

How can Met afford the islands and then the Delta tunnels for which they are buying the islands for, if there is no longer the 40% financial contribution from Westlands Water District for the tunnels? We need everyone in Northern California to oppose the purchase of the Delta islands, they can’t buy a watershed. 

Below — Westlands Water District’s SEC fine and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Met)’s purchase of Delta islands are receiving national and international coverage — here are all the stories! 

Westlands Water District media coverage

The feds slam a big water agency for cooking its books — but they didn't go far enough
Michael Hilzik – Los Angeles Times March 11, 2016 *NEW*
The SEC action casts a shadow over $200 million in bonds issued by Westlands and a neighboring district, which have been placed on negative credit watch by the rating agency Moody's.  But the darkest shadow is cast over the cause of good governance. As long as senior officials can boast about doing "Enron accounting" and then, when they're caught, get off without admitting their wrongdoing for the record, there's little hope that the public interest will be protected.

California Water District Fined by S.E.C. Over ‘Enron Accounting’
Michael Wines – The New York Times March 10, 2016
When the overseers of the nation’s largest and most powerful agricultural water district approved a bookkeeping change at their July 2010 board meeting, the district’s general manager called it “a little Enron accounting.”

Westlands Water District, Nation’s Largest Agricultural Water District, Hit with Rare Federal Fine
Avaneesh Pandey – International Business Times 3/10/16
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday levied a $125,000 fine on the Westlands Water District — the country’s largest agricultural water district — for misleading bond investors about the district’s financial health. This is only the second time the SEC has issued a financial penalty against a municipal-bond issuer.

Bond Jitters Spread After Westlands Water District Investigation
Geoffrey Mohan – Los Angeles Times March 10, 2016
More than $200 million worth of bonds issued by the Westlands Water District and a neighboring water authority were placed on a negative watch status Thursday by Fitch Ratings amid allegations that the Central Valley district manipulated its accounts to mask drought-related financial problems.

California’s Largest Water District, Accused of Misleading Investors, Settles with the SEC
Geoffrey Mohan – Los Angeles Times March 10, 2016
A sprawling Central Valley water district run by some of the state's wealthiest growers papered over its drought-related financial struggles and misled investors, federal regulators said Wednesday.

Major California Water District Hit With Rare Federal Fine
Ellen Knickmeyer and Scott Smith – Associated Press March 10, 2016
Federal regulators issued a rare fine Wednesday to the nation's largest agricultural water district for misleading bond investors about the district's financial circumstances.

Westlands Water District Will Pay Big Fine to Settle SEC Civil Charges
Michael Doyle – The Fresno Bee March 9, 2016
The giant Westlands Water District in west Fresno County will pay $125,000 to settle Securities and Exchange Commission civil charges that it misled investors about its financial health, officials said Wednesday.

California Water District Hit With Federal Fine for 'Enron' Accounting
Jeff Daniels – CNBC 9 Mar, 2016
The Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday announced a $125,000 settlement with California's largest agricultural water district, which the federal agency accused of misleading investors at the time of a 2012 bond offering.

SEC Issues Record Fine to California’s Largest Agricultural Water District
Tamara Audi – The Wall Street Journal March 9, 2016
California’s sustained drought has set another record, this time with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Instead of ‘Supermarket to the World’.
On the Public Record March 9, 2016
When I was just a little girl, the Archer Daniels Midland price-fixing scandal broke.  Forever after, my father and I would mutter “bunch of crooks” in unison when we heard their ads on NPR.  Today, wonderful people at the SEC tell us that Westlands Water District lied to investors to disguise the fact that they’d rather sell bonds they can’t afford to pay back than raise their water rates.  Evidence shows that General Manager Tom Birmingham advised to his board to do some “Enron accounting” and then verified the financial lies in their Official Statement.  For this he was personally fined $50K.

Westlands Water District Hit With SEC Cease and Desist Order
Central Valley Business Times March 9, 2016
The mammoth Westland Water District has agreed to a cease and desist order from the Securities and Exchange Commission and to pay a fine because it lied to investors in its required official statement for its October 2012 offering of $77 million in refunding revenue bonds.

Metropolitan Water District's purchase of the Delta Islands media coverage: 

VIDEO: Southern California Water District’s Island Buys May Be Related to Delta Tunnels Project
Leigh Martinez – CBS 13 March 9, 2016
…. “That their intent is to use the islands for construction and for staging construction for the Delta tunnels. Two of those islands are in the direct path of those tunnels,” said spokeswoman Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla.

A Raid on Delta Islands
San Francisco Chronicle March 9, 2016
If it’s not a water grab, it comes close. That’s one way to view a move by Southern California’s largest water district to buy a handful of Sacramento Delta islands that spell the future of state water policy. ….

…. Having the heavy-handed Met as a new neighbor is an “existential threat,’’ according to Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, a conservation group. She’s right to be concerned, and the rest of California should be too.

Southern California Water Agency Will Buy Delta Islands
Tim Lantz – KFBK News March 9, 2016
Critics, like Barbara Barrigan-Parilla of the Restore the Delta advocacy group, say the purchase will give Metropolitan more access to water in the over-tapped delta. She believes this could be the gateway to construction of the twin water tunnels proposed by Governor Jerry Brown, since two of the islands are in the projected path of the water tunnels. That would eliminate concerns over eminent domain for the portion of the tunnels project.

SoCal Water Giant Wants Delta Land
Eric Rucker – Fox 40 News March 9, 2016
…. “I do not have confidence in the Metropolitan water District on their incentives are financial and water-based,” Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, the executive director of Restore the Delta, told FOX40.

Southern California Water Agency Moves To Buy Delta Islands
Dale Kasler and Ryan Sabalow – The Sacramento Bee March 8, 2016
…. Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla of the advocacy group Restore the Delta, agreed, saying the big Southern California agency will find a way to steer more water south. Once Metropolitan has the islands, “they have the resources to change laws and policies to maximize their access to Delta water in their favor,” she said.

Southern California Water Giant Agrees To Buy Delta Islands
Peter Fimrite – SFGate March 8, 2016
…. “It’s definitely an existential threat to the delta and delta communities,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of the conservation group Restore the Delta. “Truly, it’s like having the fox right in the middle of the henhouse.”

Southern California Water District Is New Owner of 20,000 Acres of California Delta
Central Valley Business Times March 8, 2016
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is buying 20,000 acres in the heart of the California Delta near Stockton. ….
…. “It is troubling for the Delta region that Metropolitan Water District is going to acquire such a significant portion of Delta land and Delta water rights,” says Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, a group opposed to the tunnels.

Metropolitan Water District Authorizes Purchase of Delta Islands
Dan Bacher – Daily Kos Mar 8, 2016
As the Delta smelt and other fish species reach record low population levels and fishermen and fisherwomen brace for salmon restrictions this season, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California authorized the purchase of four islands in the San Francisco Bay-Delta for an undisclosed sum at a closed session of Board of Directors meeting on the morning of Tuesday, March 8. ….
…. “The deal is highly controversial in Northern California, as it would put Southern California’s most powerful water agency in control of a group of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta islands that can serve as water storage areas or entry points for the proposed $15 billion Delta Tunnels projects,” observed Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta.

Delta Islands Sale Moves Forward
Alex Breitler – The Stockton Record Mar. 8, 2016
Southern California’s giant water provider agreed Tuesday to purchase about 20,000 acres of land in the Delta, a move one Stockton-based advocacy group quickly called an “existential threat” to the future of the estuary. ….
…. “There’s nothing to stop them. If people think they’re going to be good neighbors, they’re just not being realistic,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla of Restore the Delta, which released a statement calling Metropolitan an “existential threat” to the Delta.

Southern California Water Agency Takes Step to Buy Delta Land
Amy Quinton – Capital Public Radio March 8, 2016
The board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has voted to enter into a contract to buy 20,000 acres of land in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. ….
…. “I don’t buy their argument that they only want to restore habitat. They’re anxiously moving forward with promoting California WaterFix. They are at the water board helping push through the projects,” says Barbara Barrigan-Parilla with the advocacy group Restore the Delta.

Delta Islands Sold To Big Water Agency
Denis Cuff, Monterey Herald 3/8/2016
A giant water district for 19 million Southern Californians has approved the purchase of four Delta islands in a move arousing suspicions about its influence over the state's water delivery system. ….
…. Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, said she worries Metropolitan will use the land to help the state build the governor's unpopular plan for water tunnels through the Delta.

MWD Votes to Buy 20,000 Acres of Island Farmland in Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
Bettina Boxall – Los Angeles Times March 8, 2016
The board of Southern California's water importer voted Tuesday to buy 20,000 acres of farm islands in the heart of the state's north-south plumbing system. ….
…. The tunnels are fiercely opposed by delta farmers. In a statement, the anti-tunnel group Restore the Delta called MWD ownership of a chunk of the delta "an existential threat."

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