[env-trinity] Yolo County loses out to Central Valley water district

Tom Stokely tstokely at trinityalps.net
Tue Dec 18 08:35:30 PST 2007

My Opinion:

I think that as Manager and General Counsel of Westlands Water District, Mr. Tom Birmingham would have been negligent if he hadn't explored the water rights of this parcel before he recommended that his Board of Directors approve the purchase.

Tom Stokely

County loses out to Central Valley water district
Daily Democrat
12/16/2007 10:02:39 AM PST
At Issue: Sale of 3,450-acre ranch in Yolo County to 'protect' Delta

Our Opinion: Purchase of wetlands may protect wildlife but it also means
lost opportunity for Yolo County. 

That giant sucking sound you hear is Yolo County's water headed south
into Fresno and Kings counties as a result of the purchase by Westlands
Water District of a 3,450-acre ranch in the Yolo Bypass from farmer
Duncan McCormack.

The $12 million buy took county officials completely by surprise. "I
first learned about it (Thursday) from a reporter," county spokeswoman
Beth Gabor said Friday morning. "It was a private transaction so (the
county has) no authority to weigh in, but we certainly would have liked
the opportunity to communicate with (Westlands) before the deal was

Westlands says it plans to convert portions of its new property -
currently used for farming - to create habitat for Delta smelt and
maintain the rest in agriculture. That sounds laudable enough, but what
it also does is give the country's largest water district access to
water flowing through the Yolo Bypass.

What's worrisome is that Westlands has been criticized in the past by
environmentalists for straining water resources and contributing to the
Delta ecosystem's decline.

Now Westland's general manger Tom Birmingham is saying that "Saving the
smelt is an issue of self-preservation for most of California.
Regulation of the state's water supply projects alone hasn't worked, and
as a public agency with responsibility for providing water for more than
500,000 acres of farmland, the District's Board of Directors decided we
need to act directly to help solve a critical problem."

By restoring fish habitat and increasing the number of fish in the
Delta, Westlands says it hopes to prevent further water-supply cutbacks,
thereby decreasing the pressure on Delta water users.

Westlands encompasses more than 600,000 acres of farmland in western
Fresno and Kings counties and serves about 600 family-owned farms. The
purchase of Yolo Ranch comes as Westlands and other major California
water agencies are negotiating a conservation plan to meet new federal
environmental protection requirements. That plan could include a new
method of moving water around and through the Delta, and would require
ecosystem restoration projects similar to those Westlands is proposing
for Yolo Ranch.

Of course, Yolo County had an opportunity to preserve its water supply
through the acquistion of Conaway Ranch and its 17,300-acre property
owned by the Conaway Preservation Group. That effort was stopped by an
outcry over the county's threat of using eminent domain and in September
2006 a deal was reached which left the property in the hands of CPG,
which is now at work on a $214 million project would work to enhance
threatened fish habitat.

Fifty years ago, Yolo County lost out on having a portion of control
over water coming from the new Lake Berryessa with the construction of
the Moncticello Dam. About two years ago, the county was stopped in its
efforts to secure water rights on the the 17,300-acre Conaway Ranch.
Last week, the county lost out on an opportunity to control 3,450-acre
McCormack property.

When is our county and the people in it going to recognize water is our
lifeblood and we must treat it like gold?
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