Saturday, February 7, 2015

Westlands and Feds Negotiate Deal to Settle Drainage Issues

A potential agreement between the Federal government and the Westlands Water District now in the works may settle a long-standing legal issue over the drainage of contaminated water discharges from farmlands on the Central Valley’s west side. But news of the negotiation sparking a new controversy. The Westlands is a 600,000 acre farming district that has long been at the center of disagreements over agricultural water allocations, the health of the Bay Delta, and a drainage project the Feds promised but never finished. Westlands growers sued the Feds over that broken promise, and won. The Obama administration and Westlands farmers have parlayed confidentially a deal to resolve the dispute. The resolution is said to include the retirement of marginal farmland and forgiveness of Westlands debt to the government in exchange for ending the Federal obligation to build a drainage system. The deal also includes more secure water deliveries to the district. Vic Bedoian reports from Fresno.