Westlands Water Tunnel Critics Respond to Secret Settlement as Native Smelt Nears Extinction



When you think that things can't get worse in the toxic nightmare that is California water politics, be assured - "Yes, They Can!"

Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Governor Jerry Brown's rush to build massive Peripheral Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today responded to the prospect of a secret settlement of the debt Westlands Water District owes to US taxpayers and the near extinction presently of Delta smelt.

Restore the Delta Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla stated, "The idea that the Westlands Water District can secretly negotiate a settlement with the Federal Government that secures Westlands' water rights, by circumventing state water rights, and that lets Westlands walk away from hundreds of millions of dollars of debt that they owe to U.S. taxpayers is incomprehensible. Worse, Westlands is not being required to document how they will continue to farm without belching polluted discharge water back into the watershed, or how their farmers will pay for the approximate $2 billion that it will cost to fix their drainage issues."

"American taxpayers should not be on the hook to subsidize water profits for 600 rich farming corporations. Westlands should not be given Federal entitlements to water right seniority over California farmers who were in production decades before Westlands farmers, especially during times of water scarcity, as during this drought. It seems that Westland's extensive lobbying and media efforts are buying the best government available in Washington," she said.

Barrrigan-Parrilla emphasized that this deal is "especially disturbing" considering the recent numbers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Fall Midwater Trawl Survey that show that the Delta Smelt population has reached a new record low. (https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentId=92840)

"The smelt, which was once the most abundant fish in the Bay-Delta Estuary, is an indicator species, meaning that it demonstrates the health of the Bay-Delta estuary," continued Barrigan-Parrilla. "The species is nearly extinct; other Bay-Delta fisheries are in rapid decline, and nobody is thinking about the economic damage that will be inflicted on commercial fisheries and their connected economies resulting from the over pumping of the Delta."

The survey also revealed the continuing collapse of striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and American shad in the Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. The population index for striped bass is the third lowest in history, while the index for longfin smelt is the second lowest ever recorded. The population index for threadfin shad is the sixth lowest, while the index for American shad is the second lowest. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/01/09/1356714/-Delta-smelt-reaches-ne...)

Barrigan-Parrilla said, "While Westlands continues to push Federal legislation for increased water exports at the pumps during the drought, enhanced water rights through secret negotiations, an unrestricted license to pollute, and their bills paid by American taxpayers, the Delta ecosystem is unraveling.

Westlands leaders will never be satisfied until they have all the water they want, when they want, without any restrictions, despite the economic and environmental consequences for the rest of California. They want the Delta tunnels so they can take as much water from Northern California as quickly as possible, and without the tunnels they want laws passed that simply let them muscle their way to the front of the line, even before the fish, to take all the water they want.

They talk about feeding the world and their economic importance to the nation - which in reality is 0.3% of California's GDP. The truth is that their free hand of the marketplace is in our back pockets grabbing our tax dollars and the future sustainability of the Bay-Delta estuary for California's children."

She concluded, "We call on the Bureau of Reclamation and the Obama Administration to make public the details of these secret negotiations, and to bring all impacted parties to the table to work on California's water challenges "in a manner that supports the enforcement of existing laws."

For more information about the secret settlement, go to: http://bit.ly/1C0aSyW

Again, please remember that when you think it can't get any worse, the state and federal governments have an uncanny ability to find a new, unprecedented low in their mad race to the bottom.

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