Water district with Bernhardt ties eyes permanent contract– Michael Doyleand Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E News, 11/8/19
The nation’s largest agricultural water district could secure permanent access to precious irrigation deliveries under a newly proposed deal — reviving California political strife and questions about Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s role in the matter.
Tapping a provision in a heavily lobbied 2016 law, the Westlands Water District and Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation are proposing that the district pay off what it owes the federal government and thereby ensure water supplies without future contract renewals.
Interior officials say it’s a good deal, but some critics think the deal is questionable, both on the merits and for the close political ties it raises with the Interior secretary.
Comment by Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director, Restore the Delta:
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla of the nonprofit Restore the Delta called the proposed contract “strikingly corrupt.”
“Secretary Bernhardt is functioning like Santa Claus with a bag of giveaways for his former client Westlands,” Barrigan-Parrilla said. “He is gifting them a perpetual contract for water deliveries with increasing amounts despite a collapsing San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary, and water needs in other parts of the state during extended droughts from climate change.”