[env-trinity] Groups File Lawsuit to Block Backroom Water Deal
danielbacher at fishsniffer.com
Thu Jun 3 16:37:57 PDT 2010
Here's my alternet.org piece on the lawsuit.
Photo of the State Water Project's California Aqueduct courtesy of
Groups File Lawsuit to Block Backroom Water Deal
by Dan Bacher
Fishing and conservation groups today filed a lawsuit seeking to
block a secret backroom deal - known as the "Monterey Amendments" -
signed by five water contractors along with the Department of Water
Resources to undo water contracts underlying voter approved bonds
four decades earlier.
This is an historic lawsuit that has the potential to change to way
State Water Project water is allocated. Absent court action, contract
changes that largely benefit southern San Joaquin Valley corporate
irrigators at the expense of urban ratepayers will "trade away
ratepayer funded projects and allow massive diversions of water from
the Delta charging only pumping costs," according to a news release
from the groups.
The backroom deal was "essentially Chinatown on steroids," said Bill
Jennings, chairman of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance
“This was a poorly negotiated backdoor deal that put the wealthy
growers of subsidized crops ahead of fisheries and the need for a
sustainable and reliable supply of clean drinking water for
California’s cities,” stated Jennings. “The Metropolitan Water
District gambled it could raid the Delta for ‘surplus’ water. It
not only lost that bet, but the Monterey Plus Amendments triggered
the collapse of Delta ecosystems and our once-great salmon fisheries.”
The “Monterey Amendments," signed secretly in 1995 without any
public input, were successfully challenged in court. The courts ruled
the contract changes, deeding of portions of the State Water Project
known as the Kern Water Bank, and removal of protections for southern
California ratepayers would not be valid until a new analysis of the
impacts had public review and was certified as complete.
“These contract changes break promises made to bond holders and
ratepayers,” said Carolee Krieger, President and Executive Director
of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN). “These changes undo
decades of urban ratepayer protections for the benefit of a few
agribusiness corporations and real estate developments at the expense
of ratepayers and bondholders.”
C-WIN, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, the Center
for Biological Diversity, and the Central Delta Water Agency and the
South Delta Water Agency, agencies that deliver water to Delta-area
farmers, filed the suit in Sacramento Superior Court. The suit
challenges the legality of the following:
• Institutionalizing the concept of “paper water” – water
promised by contract that can never realistically be delivered.
• Eliminating the “urban preference,” which prioritized water
deliveries to municipal customers during drought. This change
resulted in water shortages and higher utility rates for southern
• Increasing water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta,
thus worsening water quality
• Illegally transferring state property known as the Kern Water Bank
to private entities and undermining the California Water Code by
masking the purpose and place of water.
The lawsuit seeks to "reinstate the urban water preference during
drought in State Water Project contracts, reduce the pumping of Delta
water that has resulted in the collapse of fisheries, and return the
Kern Water Bank to public ownership," the groups said.
Defendants in the lawsuit include the Kern County Water Agency, Kern
County Water Bank Authority, Paramont Farming Company, Roll
International Corporation, Tejon Ranch Company, Westside Mutual Water
Company, Alameda County Water District, the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California and a host of other water contractors.
The Kern Water Bank, owned by the California Department of Water
Resources from 1988 to 1995, is now in the hands of private Kern
County interests. Forty-eight percent of the bank is owned by
Westside Mutual Water Company, a private water company controlled by
Beverly Hills billionaire Stewart Resnick.
Resnick, the owner of the 115,000 acre Paramount Farms, is the
largest tree fruit grower in the world and contributes heavily to the
campaigns of Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senate President Pro Tem
Darrell Steinberg and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
“The State Water Project and the Kern Water Bank were developed by
the state, at ratepayer expense, to benefit all of California—our
cities, our farms, and our fish,” said Adam Keats, lead attorney
with the Center for Biological Diversity. “But with the Monterey
Plus Amendments it has been hijacked by private interests who are
using it for their own ends, including stockpiling water to enable
destructive speculative development."
"Meanwhile the state’s entire water system gets closer and closer to
collapse and multiple fish species—salmon, Delta smelt, even
Sacramento splittail—are brought closer to the brink of extinction
so that subsidized growers can make profits off of water sales and
new sprawl development can be built in the last of our wild places,"
The same corporate agribusiness interests and southern California
water agencies that signed the backdoor deal are campaigning for the
peripheral canal, a $23 billion to $53.8 billion government
boondoggle that is likely to result in the extinction of Sacramento
River chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon, Delta
smelt and other fish species. The peripheral canal, also backed by
corporate environmental NGOs led by the Nature Conservancy, is also
likely to lead to the extinction of southern resident killer whales
(orcas) that depend on healthy stocks of Sacramento River salmon to
I applaud CWIN, CSPA and the Center for Biological Diversity for
launching this lawsuit. The Monterey Amendments - and the water
privatization and environmental destruction they have left in their
wake - must be overturned. Everybody who cares about restoring our
imperiled salmon and other fish populations and stopping water
privatization and the theft of our public trust resources should
support this lawsuit!
For more information, go to http://www.c-win.org, http://
www.calsport.org and http://www.BiologicalDiversity.org.
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