Congressional Bill aims to Resolve Controversial California Irrigation Drainage Issue
Last month, the House Natural Resources Committee approved a bill that aims to resolve a controversial California irrigation drainage issue. The Committee voted 23-16 to resolve one of California’s most expensive and longest-running water problems. The irrigation dispute has been going on between the Westlands Water District and the federal government and the bill would forgive the water district’s debt in exchange for the water district taking care of the drainage issue. In 1960, there was 188 miles of drainage planned in the Central Valley but only 82 miles were built and the construction stopped at the Kesterson Reservoir in Merced County. Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) stated,
Once authorized by law, the settlement agreement . . . will end the decades of frustration that began when the United States government decided in the 1980s not to uphold the promise to provide drainage service.
The amount of the Westlands Water District’s debt that would be forgiven is estimated at $375 million, but the estimated cost of continuing the drainage construction is $3 billion. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) stated,
[The bill] doesn’t adequately protect the taxpayer, and it certainly doesn’t protect the environment or the interests of other water users.
Drainage is important to keep fertile soil from becomes poisoned by a buildup of salty water, which is what happened at the Kesterson Reservoir. We will have to wait and see if the drainage issue will actually get fixed.
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