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Where Everything Grows

Arrogant irrigators


"California Dreamin' " provided a good overview of the water issues in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region of California (HCN, 12/20/10). However, additional information on the Westlands Water District would have made the article even better. Westlands is comprised mostly of large family or corporate-owned farms. They are one of the primary beneficiaries of the federally funded Central Valley Project, built by the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation using public taxes. Westlands owes over $500 million on the Central Valley Project and has paid no interest on this debt. The district has not paid for the toxicity to fish and wildlife from selenium and other contaminants drained into canals, sloughs and the San Joaquin River. Farmers continue to receive heavily subsidized water -- now about $50 per acre-foot -- when market prices are approaching $650 per acre-foot. This is government welfare for rich and powerful farmers. Moreover, Westlands has only junior water rights. The district's insistence on water deliveries at 2005 levels is arrogant and unsupportable.

Farming in the area would not be profitable without heavily subsidized imported water, crop price supports and drainage. This area is in a desert climate with poorly drained, increasingly salinized soils. If people knew what they provide to these wealthy farms, I doubt they would approve. The ecological integrity of the Delta should not be sacrificed for unsupportable water demands.

Marc A. Sylvester
Sonoma, California



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