[env-trinity] Westlands district quits state water association

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Thu Feb 25 09:20:33 PST 2010


Westlands district quits state water association 
The Westlands Water District, the powerful farm irrigation agency in the San Joaquin Valley, has quit its membership in a leading statewide water association.
Spokeswoman Sarah Woolf said Westlands quit the Association of California Water Agencies because of budget priorities. Its ACWA membership cost about $19,000 a year, she said.

Westlands, the nation's largest farm irrigation district, is engaged in a number of high-profile lawsuits against wildlife protections in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. It is choosing to focus on those efforts, Woolf said.

"We just have to be very strategic on where we put our resources right now," she said. "We are in a lot of court cases and that's not cheap."

A letter obtained by The Bee, however, indicates Westlands had other reasons. The Feb. 3 letter from Westlands board President Jean Sagouspe terminates its membership effective Feb. 28, and criticizes ACWA Executive Director Tim Quinn for making statements and advocating policies contrary to Westlands' interests. 

"It was our hope that Tim would cease making such statements. But he has not," Sagouspe wrote.
Quinn said late Wednesday that ACWA disagreed with Westlands' support for a controversial bill amendment proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein to alter Endangered Species Act protections for the Delta smelt. But he said they also have agreed on many recent issues.

"We have tactical differences," Quinn said. "It's not unusual for the head of a large association to get criticism from its members. I respect their views."

ACWA, the nation's largest coalition of public water agencies, represents about 90 percent of all the water delivered to California cities and farms. Perhaps as a result of this broader responsibility, it has struck a more cooperative posture toward environmental groups and regulators.

- Matt Weiser 
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