News Worth Noting: Congressman Valadao Introduces Legislation to Resolve Westlands Drainage Dispute; ROD Signed for the Coordinated Long-term Operation of the CVP and SWP; Metropolitan Board adopts updated, long-term regional water plan

Congressman Valadao Introduces Legislation to Resolve Westlands Drainage Dispute

From the website of Congressman David Valadao:

valadaoToday, Tuesday, January 12, 2016, U.S. Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-21) introduced H.R. 4366, the San Luis Unit Drainage Resolution Act in the United States House of Representatives. This legislation would authorize a settlement of a long-standing dispute between the United States and the Westlands Water District concerning the management of drainage water within Westlands’ service area in the San Luis Unit of the Central Valley Project (CVP) in California. In doing so, the legislation will save the American taxpayers billions of dollars.

Under the legislation, the United States will be relieved of potential liability of $3.5 billion for the statutory obligation to manage drainage water. The bill includes concessions made by both the Federal Government and Westlands Water District to resolve the dispute. Westlands will dismiss its drainage related claims against the U.S. and indemnify the U.S. for any damages for landowner claims arising out of pending takings litigation against the federal government. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the potential liability of the United States for these claims could exceed more than $2 billion.

Importantly, no other CVP contractor will see their water supply jeopardized by the enactment of H.R. 4366.

Congressman David Valadao stated, “This legislation is necessary to approve and authorize the drainage settlement agreed to by both Westlands and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) this past year.” He continued, “Furthermore, enactment of this legislation has the potential to save taxpayers billions of dollars. Ensuring taxpayer dollars go towards meaningful projects, such as increased water storage rather than fighting unnecessary litigation, is the responsible and most efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

Specifically, the legislation will:

  • Settle the above litigation and relieve the U.S. of its multi-billion dollar statutory and court-ordered drainage obligation
  • Require Westlands to manage drainage water within its boundaries, in accordance with the federal and California law, and provide the Department of Interior the right to cease water deliveries to Westlands if it fails to do so
  • Require Westlands to indemnify the U.S. for any damages and pay compensation for landowner claims arising out of the Etchegoinberry litigation
  • Relieve Westlands of its existing approximate $375 million capital repayment obligations under its water service contract with the United States
  • Require Westlands to permanently retire 100,000 acres of land within its boundaries
  • Authorize the Secretary of the Interior to convert Westlands’ existing water service contract entered into under section 9(e) of the 1939 to a repayment contract under section 9(d) of the same act
  • Cap Westlands contract deliveries at 75% of its CVP contract amount

Congressman David G. Valadao represents the 21st Congressional District, which includes Kings County and portions of Fresno, Tulare, and Kern Counties.

Record of Decision Signed for the Coordinated Long-term Operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project

From the Bureau of Reclamation:

ReclamationThe Bureau of Reclamation signed a Record of Decision supported by the Coordinated Long-term Operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project Final Environmental Impact Statement.

The Preferred Alternative identified in the LTO Final EIS and the Reclamation’s decision included in the ROD is to implement the No Action Alternative. The No Action Alternative contains all of the Reasonable and Prudent Alternative actions in the 2008 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and 2009 National Marine Fisheries Service Biological Opinions.

The ROD and LTO Final EIS were completed in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and are available at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/nepa/nepa_projdetails.cfm?Project_ID=21883.

Metropolitan Board adopts updated, long-term regional water plan that builds on adaptive management approach

Water Tomorrow plan looks to stabilize imported supplies, meet future demands through conservation, new local supplies, water transfers/exchanges

From the Metropolitan Water District:

MWD logoSouthern California’s long-term water resource plan that outlines ways to maintain supply reliability for the next 25 years was updated today by Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors in the midst of a record statewide drought and increased volatility in the available supplies for the region.

Key points of Water Tomorrow, Metropolitan’s updated 2015 Integrated Resources Plan, include identifying resources for future investment to protect the region from potential water shortages. The plan also emphasizes lowering demands through conservation and other actions as well as the need for developing new supplies through more local projects like water recycling.

“The updated plan offers an evolving roadmap for maintaining regional water supply reliability through 2040,” said Metropolitan board Chairman Randy Record. “It provides the vision for Metropolitan’s strategy to ensure future supply reliability by adaptively managing through change.”

Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said action and additional investment are essential to ensure water reliability for the Southland’s future.

“One of the major findings of the 2015 plan update is that, without further regional investment, supply reliability could significantly degrade to the point where the Southland could face mandatory cutbacks in eight of every 10 years by 2040,” he said.

The updated plan builds on the strong foundation of diversification and adaptation fostered in Metropolitan’s inaugural IRP in 1996 and through subsequent updates in 2004 and 2010, Kightlinger added.

“The key to managing risk and future uncertainty is through an adaptive management strategy that stabilizes and maintains the region’s imported supplies through the State Water Project and Colorado River Aqueduct, builds on our successful conservation ethic, and sustains and develops new local supplies,” Kightlinger said.

“We also need to pursue water transfers and exchanges, increase storage to manage drought, and look at other supply actions,” he said.

Today’s decision follows nearly a year of comprehensive technical analysis of regional supply reliability through 2040, while also identifying reliability targets for conservation and local supplies.

Along the Colorado River, the success of Metropolitan’s partnerships and land management programs, including the fallowing program in the Palo Verde Valley which makes conserved water available to urban areas, points to the potential of new collaborations to maximize river supplies, particularly during dry years.

The plan’s goal for State Water Project supplies is a wide-ranging strategy that would effectively manage water flow and export regulations in the near term and achieve a long-term solution to the ecosystem and water supply reliability issues in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Completion of California WaterFix would create the infrastructure needed to move additional supplies in wet years.

While Metropolitan and its 26 member public agencies focus on California’s goal to lower residential per-capita water use 20 percent by the year 2020, the Water Tomorrow plan emphasizes increased outdoor water-use efficiency to achieve greater savings, largely through the region’s compliance with the state’s Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance.

Following today’s adoption of the 2015 update, Kightlinger said there are remaining policy discussions that will be critical to guiding the development and maintenance of local supplies and conservation.

“Over time, we will begin policy discussions that will be led by the board and our member public agencies to address a variety of questions, including how to meet regional reliability targets, what constitutes local and regional responsibilities and how to finance regional projects,” Kightlinger said.

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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