[env-trinity] Sac Bee 10 02 10 Westlands Water District

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Mon Oct 4 09:29:09 PDT 2010


Democrats spar over farm water

Sacramento Bee-10/2/10 

By Michael Doyle

 

California congressional Democrats are engaged in another of their periodic
intramural fights over the state's water, this time involving the giant
Westlands Water District near Fresno.

 

Illustrating once more that regional loyalty trumps party labels when it
comes to water, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, on Friday pledged "the fight of a
lifetime" if some of his Democratic colleagues continued to criticize a
proposed Westlands water deal.

 

Costa set his sights on Rep. George Miller, D-Concord. For years, Miller has
criticized subsidized water deliveries to San Joaquin Valley farms. 

 

"If he wants to pick a fight with an entire valley population whose economy
hinges on a fair share of water, we'll give him one," Costa declared.

 

Miller, in turn, is raising pointed questions about Westlands' proposal for
a water swap with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Joined by three other California Democrats, Miller last month wondered if
the proposed water exchange is inconsistent with the district's earlier dire
warnings of a water shortage.

 

"Following Westlands' claims of significant hardship, many stakeholders and
policymakers in California and Washington spent considerable time and energy
this spring identifying additional water supplies for Westlands," Miller
noted in a Sept. 15 letter.

 

Reps. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Creek, Mike Thompson, D-Napa, and Grace
Napolitano, D-Santa Fe Springs, joined Miller's letter. It's a potent
lineup. Miller and Thompson are particularly close allies of House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Napolitano chairs the House water and
power subcommittee.

 

It's Miller, though, whose reputation resonates most among Costa's farm
constituents. They still associate the Bay Area liberal with his co-
authorship of the 1992 Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which
diverted more water from farms to environmental protection.

 

This means publicly sparring with Miller could be politically advantageous
for Costa, whose Republican opponent, Andy Vidak, argues that valley
Democrats "were not willing to stand up to their own party" on defending the
region's water interests.

 

Miller, in turn, answers to urban Bay Area constituents who are skeptical of
irrigation subsidies and what he termed Westlands' "political advocacy,
press releases and court filings."

 

Though it builds on past conflicts, the latest water fight is rooted in this
year's water allocations. The Interior Department initially announced
Westlands would only get 5 percent of its contracted water supply. Following
intense political pressure and other developments, it increased to 45
percent.

 

Westlands' farmers say they want to send the Metropolitan Water District
about 80,000 acre-feet of water stored in San Luis Reservoir. In turn, the
farmers will get access to a comparable amount of Southern California-owned
water next year. Farmers have practiced such "rescheduling" of water for a
number of years.

 

"It is often a necessity for obtaining financing from agricultural lenders,"
Los Banos-area farmer and Westlands board president Jean P. Sagouspe advised
Miller. "One of the first questions a farmer on the West Side of the San
Joaquin Valley will be asked by a banker is, 'What is your water supply?' "

 

 

Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land/fax

415 519 4810 mobile

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
(secondary)

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 

 

 

 

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