Westlands Drainage Settlement
A deal between Westlands Water District and the federal government over irrigation drainage took a step forward this week with a committee vote in the House of Representatives, reported Michael Doyle of McClatchy.
On Wednesday the House Natural Resources Committee voted by 27 to 12, mostly along party lines, in favor of the settlement. The Republican-controlled House is likely to pass it, although it’s not a done deal just yet.
The controversial agreement involves Westlands retiring 100,000 acres (40,000 hectares) of land and being given a pass on the $375 million it owes the government. The district would also get a favorable deal on new water contracts. In return the federal government would be relieved of its obligation to build an irrigation drainage system that could cost billions. The drainage is needed to prevent the buildup of salts in the soil that would make the land unfarmable.
Salton Sea Decision Time
As the clock is ticking on efforts to mitigate the shrinking of the Salton Sea, the Imperial Irrigation District in Southern California issued an ultimatum that could help spur action, Ian James reported for the Desert Sun.
The IID wants the state to finalize a 10-year plan for the imperiled lake before the end of the year that would help address the issues of worsening dust levels and ensuing public health concerns as the lake bed continues to dry. If the state fails to do so, the water district is threatening not to support a deal to help share the diminishing Colorado River water among lower basin states.
“IID’s participation is crucial for the success of the proposed Colorado River agreement because the agency holds the largest single entitlement to water from the river and would account for about 60 percent of California’s proposed reductions in water deliveries,” wrote James. “In order to sign on, IID general manager Kevin Kelley said the district first needs to see a concrete blueprint for dealing with the lake’s accelerating decline.”
Winter Weather Update
This week’s drought monitor reported that temperatures across the West were higher than normal.
Drier and warmer conditions could be the norm this winter for parts of the southwest, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
High temperatures and dry weather in Colorado have meant a terrible start to the ski season “with all major river basins in Colorado reporting less than 25 percent of average snowfall by this point in the cold season. The lack of snowpack is evident across most of the West,” reported the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Additionally, southern parts of the country are likely to lean toward above-normal temperatures and less than average precipitation, according to the NOAA, which may translate to more areas being designated in drought.
“We’re expecting the drought conditions to continue through the winter time,” Christine Riley, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Hanford, told ABC news in Bakersfield. “And who knows beyond that; it could likely continue for another few years. And because we’re so far behind with our water, it’s going to take many many years of above-normal precipitation to see an improvement in the drought conditions.”
- The Desert Sun: Salton Sea Ultimatum: California Water District Demands State Plan by Dec. 31
- Courthouse News: Water Board Skewered for Failing to Fix Salton Sea
- The San Diego Union-Tribune: San Diego Hit Its 2020 Climate Plan Benchmark Before Document Was Approved
- KCET: From the Delta to the Desert: Trump’s Interior Pick Bad News for California Water