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Shades of Owens Valley: MWD & Westlands Moving to Purchase Delta Property Parcels in Path of Proposed Delta Tunnels Project

For Immediate Release: September 21, 2015 
Contact: Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 [email protected]; Twitter:@RestoretheDelta

Metropolitan Water District and Westlands Water District Moving to Purchase Delta Property Parcels in Path of Proposed Delta Tunnels Project

UPDATED 9/23: Westlands Water District backing out of deal to purchase property parcels — see this story

UPDATED 11:22 AM: Note paragraph 3, Westlands Water District is also moving to purchase Delta property parcels

Los Angeles – On Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 8:30 AM, behind closed doors, MWD's executive committee has scheduled what appears to be the purchase of parcels for the proposed massive Delta Tunnels project.
The Agenda for the MWD Real Asset and Property Management Committee contains the list of these parcels within its public notice. “Delta Wetlands Properties; under negotiation: price and terms of payments; to be heard in closed session” See agenda

Westlands Water District is also party to this purchase as outlined in this September 15, 2015 meeting agenda. This meeting came the same day a sweetheart toxic soil drainage settlement was announced between Westlands and the Obama Administration.

A number of these same parcels are listed in Delta Design Construction Enterprise [DCE] eminent domain documents that were obtained through a recent Public Records Act request, and as indicated in the attached map, are in the direct path for the construction of the Delta tunnels.

“In secret, it appears MWD is getting into the land management business acquiring properties for a project that is neither approved, nor, as proposed, complies with federal and state water quality and environmental protection laws,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla.  “Why is it necessary for MWD General Manager Jeff Kightlinger to conduct such a transaction behind closed doors?”
Presently, these parcels are owned by the Delta Wetlands Project, a public-private partnership for which Semitropic Groundwater Storage District is the lead agency. Created several years ago, the Delta Wetlands Project included the conversion of two Delta islands, now in the path of the tunnels, for habitat and storage for water that could be sold to San Joaquin Valley farmers. According to the Delta Wetlands project description the project was created to meet the criteria of the co-equal goals of restoring Delta habitat and creating a reliable water supply as required under the Delta Reform Act of 2009. 
See their website.  
Barrigan-Parrilla added, “Farmers, communities, and fishing groups that live in the Bay-Delta Estuary region feel like the potential takeover of land and water rights by the Metropolitan Water District of California is akin to what happened to landowners in the Owens Valley who found their communities and water taken secretly by Los Angeles interests.” The Delta Wetlands Project was originally created by outside interests, and working relationships for water storage exist between Semitropic Groundwater Storage Agency and Metropolitan Water District.
Recently DWR and USBR announced they have commenced with permits needed to construct the massive Delta Water Tunnels and are ready to begin staging, planning and construction of this proposed project though the project has yet to be permitted by State and Federal Agencies.  All of this is unfolding during a supposed public comment period in which all alternatives are supposed to be evaluated. 
Just last week the Independent Science Panel for the Delta Stewardship Council determined that the project should be withdrawn because it lacked sufficient information to meet federal and state laws.
This is a significant deficiency at this late stage for a project that after nine years and a quarter of a billion dollars spent still has not produced a legally acceptable document.

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