[env-trinity] Fw: House Natural Resources Committee Will Hold Hearing on Westlands Settlement

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Mon May 23 13:01:27 PDT 2016

On Monday, May 23, 2016 1:00 PM, Dan Bacher <danielbacher at fishsniffer.com> wrote:


House Natural Resources Committee Will Hold Hearing on Westlands Settlement
by Dan Bacher
The U.S. House Congressional Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans will hold a hearing on controversial water settlement legislation for the Westlands, San Luis and Panoche Water Districts on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at 10:30 am.
The San Luis Drainage Resolution Act (H.R. 4366), sponsored by Rep. David Valadao, R-CA), affirms a recent litigation settlement between the Obama administration and other parties in an attempt to bring about “final resolution to decades-long litigation over the federal government’s responsibility to provide drainage for certain lands in central California,” according to the hearing memo from John Fleming, Chairman. This one-panel hearing will also include consideration of two other legislative proposals.
The invited witnesses are John Bezdek , Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior; Tom Birmingham, General Manager, Westlands Water District; Jerry Brown, General Manager, Contra Costa Water District; Steve Ellis, Vice-President, Taxpayers for Common Sense; and Dennis Falaschi, General Manager, Panoche Water District Firebaugh, California. The Administration signaled its support for the Settlement agreement in its April 21, 2016 letter to Representative Valadao expressing that “it is our belief that the Settlement results in significant savings to American taxpayers when compared to the unavoidable costs that would occur without the terms agreed to in the Settlement.” Only one of the witnessess, Steve Ellis, is a critic of the deal.  His group, Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington, DC watchdog group, said, “We just don’t think this is the best or even a good deal for taxpayers.”Notably, the Committee did not invite those most impacted by the deal, including commercial and recreational fishermen whose livelihoods have been devastated by water exports from the Delta delivered to irrigate drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Nor have Tribal leaders, environmental advocates, family farmers, Delta advocates and Northern California Congressmembers been invited to testify at the hearing.Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, said U.S. taxpayers, and Californians in particular, should be “alarmed” that H.R. 4366 ( and H.R. 5217 (Rep. Jim Costa, D-CA) are moving forward.   
“The settlement agreement reached in September 2015 between the Obama Administration and these large industrial agricultural, special-interest water districts, will result in a $300 million taxpayer giveaway without addressing or solving the extreme water pollution these irrigation districts discharge into the San Joaquin River, and ultimately, the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. It is exactly these types of taxpayer giveaways to corporations that have incensed voters in both parties this election year,” said Barrigan-Parrilla.
“Years ago, the California Department of Water Resources attempted to articulate numerous state concerns about this proposed drainage settlement that didn’t ensure a solution to the polluted water discharge problem and that didn’t include a full review under the National Environmental Policy Act. (See the attached 2007 letter from State officials to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials),” she said.
At the same time, she noted that there is a “deafening silence” from Governor Jerry Brown’s Administration on this settlement agreement and other federal legislation that will “bring harm” to the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. Brown, who spoke on Saturday at the UFW Convention in Bakersfield, continues to promote the construction of the Delta Tunnnels, a public works project that Delta advocates consider to be potentially the most environmentally-destructive project in California history.
“Whether it’s a free pass on allowing the discharge of selenium, salt, and numerous pollutants back into the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary, or Senator Feinstein and Congressman Garamendi’s companion bills to over pump the Bay-Delta estuary for the benefit of these same irrigation districts, the Brown Administration has failed to weigh in on needed protections for the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary,” emphasized Barrigan-Parrilla. “Governor Brown continues to sell the Delta Tunnels to the public as benefitting the Bay-Delta estuary; if he cares about the health of the estuary, then why isn't he advocating for the Delta’s interests with the Federal government?”
Barrigan-Parrilla concluded, “It is heartbreaking to the people of the Delta that so many of our elected officials are willing to sacrifice the health of the Bay-Delta estuary for the benefit of a limited number of special interest irrigation districts that make up only 0.3% of the state’s GDP. Adding insult to injury, they are all comfortable with American citizens footing the bill for these big polluters.” 

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