Westlands deadbeat millionaire drought “victims” send subsidized ag water to LA while LA billionaire’s firm sucks rural Californians’ wells dry
Just last year Westlands Water District cried "drought" to overturn Federal enviro law. They also cried "drought" trying to take water from far more productive farmers on the Delta…who have senior rights.
Westlands cried "drought" so well and so often their millionaire welfare farmers (who harvest triple Federal subsidies from cheap ag water, below-market electricity to run their vast irrigation pumps, and USDA crop subsidies) became FOX’s poster child for getting the Feds and EPA to leave those oppressed land owners alone. After FOX’ breathless coverage – kinda like a Tea Party brewed with ag runoff – I don’t really trust them to tell us last year’s victims are now exporting the Valley’s scarce ag water to LA’s lawns.
Here’s how the deal would work: Westlands would send 50,000 to 100,000 acre-feet to Metropolitan, delivering it through the California Aqueduct. That is less than 10% of Westlands’ federal contract allotment. One acre-foot is an 18-month supply for an average family in Southern California.
Can we trust Westlands? As veteran journalist Lloyd G. Carter’s told us for years, we’re still wating for them to pay up the 490 million they’ve owed taxpayers for decades. For Westlands’ share of the Federal project they asked taxpayers to build for them. What project? Oh, just the same public project that enables Westlands to swap subsidized ag water with LA.
Forget it, Jake. It’s the Delta.
In other news of LA and uber-wealthy water bandits, Kern County Water Agency and the Kern Water Bank are pumping out ancient aquifers so fast that the local water table has fallen hundreds of feet. Which is what happens when you pump groundwater faster than it can be recharged. Bakersfield Cailfornian columnist Lois Henry described the results.
Beeson recalled how his father farmed in the area for decades until he quit because the water table had dropped more than 100 feet over a 30-year span.
"Now, we’re talking about the water table dropping hundreds of feet in three years from them pumping our water out all because of greed!" Beeson said.
When the water table falls hundreds of feet, another thing happens: wells go dry. And regular people’s homes and small farms become worthless.
The Goose Lake well is 260 feet deep. It’s old but they had it worked on just last year and everything was fine.
Because of its age, Kaspar said, they can’t just have the well lowered. The community will have to kick in to drill a whole new well in a different location to 800 feet. Cost is about $110 a foot, plus electrical, piping and other costs.
That’s a lot of money for something that didn’t have to happen, not only to this community but to the dozen or so other families who’ve already been down this road.
"Oh my gosh! Those poor people," was Ana Lopez’s reaction when she heard about this latest well going dry.
She and her husband, Paul, have been struggling to keep their home and care for their four children since their community well dried up around Christmastime.
The Lopezes are trying to save enough to hook into Vaughn’s system. But it’s expensive, around $10,000. Most other residents in her neighborhood have already packed up and left.
But wait, there’s more.
Unfortunately, the outlook isn’t good, according to Eric Averett, general manager of Rosedale-Rio Bravo.
The area where wells are going belly up seems to be expanding, he said. Besides the Goose Lake well, he said he had calls on two other wells last week.
He expects more calls as the groundwater continues to drain toward pumping depressions created by the water banks, which are tucked along Rosedale-Rio Bravo’s southern edge.
The banking projects have ceased pumping this summer as an above average snowfall year has brought more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to area farms and Southern California cities.
But the void created by previous pumping is so great it’s still sucking groundwater from surrounding lands, according to Averett.
The district’s groundwater expert believes it could take years before the water table stops declining beneath the Rosedale area, Averett said.
"What we’re seeing now is just the initial wave of people affected."
What does all this have to do with LA and billionaires? Ask DiFi’s pal Stuart Resnick…the billionaire who controls the Kern Water Bank.
The Resnicks, who live in a Beverly Hills mansion and have a second home in Aspen, Colo., are among the nation’s largest corporate farmers and are generous philanthropists and political donors, giving $536,000 to Democratic and Republican California governors in the last decade.
The Los Angeles Business Journal estimates the couple’s empire is worth $1.5 billion. It includes about 120,000 acres in California’s Central Valley — where they say they own more fresh citrus, almond and pistachio trees than anyone else in the country — and a facility akin to the Fort Knox of water…..
As drought has hammered the region, leading farmers to abandon their dry fields, the Resnicks’ 48 percent stake in the Kern Water Bank, an underground pool that stores billions of gallons of freshwater, has become increasingly valuable.
Court records show that in 2007, the Resnicks’ companies’ combined water holdings reached 755,868 acre feet — more than twice the size of San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy reservoir. In 2007, that volume would have qualified as California’s 11th largest reservoir, but the firms’ water holdings have diminished since, company officials said.
How did one man get so much water?
And how did California just happen to "cede" – that’s fancy legal-talk for "give-away", right? – precious public water to "users in Kern County"?
Resnick and other water users in agricultural Kern County gained control of the Kern bank — the largest underground water storage facility in the nation — in the mid 1990s, following a round of negotiations with the state Department of Water Resources. Their position was that the state had shorted rural areas in allotting water in a previous drought.To avoid potential litigation from unhappy water users, state officials ceded ownership of the Kern Water Bank — developed with $74 million from the department and $23 million in taxpayer-approved bonds — to a local water agency. In return, water users gave back 45,000 acre feet from the amount they contracted to receive each year.
The deal was a pivotal moment in the rise of the Resnicks’ business interests. Ownership of the bank was transferred to a joint powers authority including the local water agency, the Resnicks’ Westside Mutual Water Co. and four water districts.
That pivotal deal? Ummm….Center For Biological Diversity’s challenged the whole scam. Turns out the California officals who permanently gave away the state’s Water bank didn’t have authority to do so. Dan Bacher has the details.
The “Monterey Amendments,” signed secretly in 1995 without any public input, were successfully challenged in court. The courts ruled the contract changes, deeding of portions of the State Water Project known as the Kern Water Bank, and removal of protections for southern California ratepayers would not be valid until a new analysis of the impacts had public review and was certified as complete.
“These contract changes break promises made to bond holders and ratepayers,” said Carolee Krieger, President and Executive Director of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN). “These changes undo decades of urban ratepayer protections for the benefit of a few agribusiness corporations and real estate developments at the expense of ratepayers and bondholders.”
Last month CBD and other plaintiffs including the California Recreational Sportfishing Association and Delta-area water agencies filed suit to reverse the secret deal that gave away billions of infrastructure and public water to the Kern Water Bank’s private owners – including billionaire Stuart Resnick. Bacher again:
The suit challenges the legality of the following:
• Institutionalizing the concept of “paper water” – water promised by contract that can never realistically be delivered.
• Eliminating the “urban preference,” which prioritized water deliveries to municipal customers during drought. This change resulted in water shortages and higher utility rates for southern California ratepayers.
• Increasing water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, thus worsening water quality.
• Illegally transferring state property known as the Kern Water Bank to private entities and undermining the California Water Code by masking the purpose and place of water.
The lawsuit seeks to “reinstate the urban water preference during drought in State Water Project contracts, reduce the pumping of Delta water that has resulted in the collapse of fisheries, and return the Kern Water Bank to public ownership,” the groups said.
Defendants in the lawsuit include the Kern County Water Agency, Kern County Water Bank Authority, Paramont Farming Company, Roll International Corporation, Tejon Ranch Company, Westside Mutual Water Company, Alameda County Water District, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and a host of other water contractors…..
“The State Water Project and the Kern Water Bank were developed by the state, at ratepayer expense, to benefit all of California—our cities, our farms, and our fish,” said Adam Keats, lead attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “But with the Monterey Plus Amendments it has been hijacked by private interests who are using it for their own ends, including stockpiling water to enable destructive speculative development.”
CBD’s suit comes just in time. Resnick and the Westlands’ deadbeat millionaires joined with the billionaire Bechtels’ permanent mega-construction lobby to push Arnold, the ambitious termed-out Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, and Senate Leader Steinberg to cram a huge water bond on this November’s ballot. The Speaker’s office pushed the bond measure through the California Legislature with enough speed and secrecy that many Legislators never read the bond.
No wonder Karen Bass wanted to hurry. Turns out the bond measure she rushed through allows private water brokers to take control of the billions of dollars of public works – and even more billions worth of public water – the Water Bond measure puts on the public tab
If they can get California’s taxpayer to vote to pick up the multi-billion dollar tab.
…according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the bond allows for the creation of joint powers authorities that "may include in their membership governmental and nongovernmental partners that are not located within their respective hydrologic regions in financing the surface storage projects."
Those authorities would "own, govern, manage and operate a surface storage project."
"That’s very, very dangerous because that … opens the door to the privatization of water," said Carolee Krieger, president of the California Water Impact Network, a water consumer advocacy organization.
"If someone is doing this privately they are doing it for their own profit … and if there is a profit motive there, the price is going to go up for everyone."
Of course, the price won’t go up if you can get everyone else to cover your tab. No wonder billionaire Resnick and the Westlands deadbeat millionaires were in such a hurry to see the Water Bond on the ballot. We pay for the public works project they’ll use to take our subsidized ag water and turn around and sell it back to California’s cities at a huge mark-up. And the same taxpayers who pay off the water bond will pay higher rates for their water.
What’s not to like? Ask Ana Lopez’ ex-neighbors – the people who had to abandon their now worthless homes when the Kern Water District and billionaire Kenneth Resnick’s Water Bank pumped away their aquifers.
Hey, buddy – you want to buy subsidized public water? I can get it for you cheap…..