The Time Has Come to Get the Drainage Bill Across the Finish Line

Fresno, Calif., (April 21, 2017) – With the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WINN Act) in place to improve the operations of the Central Valley Project, a 100% allocation for 2017 (late but still a welcome change), and new water supply legislation introduced in the House this year to further improve CVP operations and water supply, there’s a lot to look forward to. Westlands Water District (District) is also looking forward to the enactment of pending legislation (H.R. 1769, San Luis Unit Drainage Resolution Act) by Congressman David Valadao that will implement the Drainage Settlement between the District and the United States. Similar legislation was introduced in 2015, received a hearing and a markup in the House, but time ran out for passage of the legislation.

Now, the timing is right to complete the process and secure legislative ratification of the Settlement. The legislation has bi-partisan support in the House of Representatives, and we are encouraged by Senator Feinstein’s comments that the “process has been going on for more than 20 years and needs to be solved. Both Westlands and the Interior Department know this, which is why they reached an agreement.”

H.R. 1769 contains critical provisions that resolves decades of costly litigation, provides a path forward for reuse of the damaged land, requires the District to manage drainage in the future, and compensates Westlands’ growers and the District for the losses that occurred because of the federal government’s failure to construct a drainage system. The bill was referred to the Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans.

The District will be reaching out to a variety of organizations, providing information about the settlement and the legislation. Our education efforts will utilize District documents that describe the legislation and the benefits of the settlement and the Department of Interior’s summary of the Settlement and how it benefits taxpayers (available here).

We anticipate that anti-farming legislators and activist groups will oppose H.R. 1769, as they oppose anything that benefits farm communities in the Central Valley.
The District staff will continue to knock down the misrepresentations that opponents have unsuccessfully used in the past to discredit the settlement. We will emphasize that the settlement was negotiated and supported by the Obama Administration, enjoys bi-partisan support, resolves litigation that Senator Feinstein and other federal and state officials described as problematic, and has the support of the Trump Administration.

With a new President and Congress, the timing is right for passage of H.R. 1769. Please contact me if you have any questions about the legislation.

Johnny Amaral: Deputy General Manager of External Affairs Westlands Water District

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