We the undersigned write to express our concern regarding the proposal to give Westlands Water District a stronghold on Delta water at a time when California's economy, people, and environment are facing a water crisis.
As you are aware, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is negotiating a settlement to the long-standing lawsuit over toxic drainage produced by irrigating lands on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
Rather than addressing the drainage problem in the most cost-effective manner, the current settlement proposal would give a powerful group of businesses an extraordinarily long (60-year) contractual right to Delta water, allowing them to continue irrigating these toxic lands.
This settlement threatens the water supplies of other Californians and the health of the fragile Bay Delta by limiting state and federal authority to reduce deliveries in order to protect the public interest. The settlement would also forgive hundreds of millions of dollars of debt owed by Westlands, and millions of dollars in operations costs, leaving the taxpayers to pick up the tab.
These drainage-impaired lands should be retired, and the water that is being used to irrigate them should be returned to the people of California for use in stabilizing the Bay-Delta, its fisheries, and the water supplies of those that depend on this vital resource.
We respectfully urge you to ensure that California's water future is not given away at this critical time of need.