Reps. Costa and Valadao Support Drainage Settlement to Protect Agricultural Land

May 24, 2016
Press Release

Washington, DC - Today, Reps. Jim Costa (CA-16) and David Valadao (CA-21) testified at the U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans legislative hearing on H.R. 4366, the San Luis Unit Drainage Resolution, introduced by Rep. Valadao and H.R. 5217, the San Luis Unit Drainage Resolution Act, introduced by Rep. Costa.  The legislation would authorize a settlement agreement concerning the management of drainage water within the San Luis Unit of the Central Valley Project (CVP) in California.  An agreement was reached in September 2015 between the United States and the Westlands Water District (Westlands), and a separate agreement was reached between the United States and the northerly San Luis Unit water and irrigation districts: Pacheco, San Luis, and Panoche Water Districts. This legislation will not affect water allocations for other CVP water contractors.

“California’s San Joaquin Valley is home to some of the most productive agricultural land in the world, and Congressman Valadao and I are proud to represent the farmers who produce the crops that feed our nation and world,” said Rep. Costa. “The San Luis Drainage Resolution Act helps ensure the land in the San Luis Unit and Westlands Water District of the Central Valley Project has the opportunity to continue their long-standing history of productivity, while eliminating the $3.8 billion dollar burden that U.S. tax payers are currently obligated to pay. These agreements, reached between the Obama Administration and the water districts within the San Luis Unit and Westlands Water District, need to be authorized by Congress in order to move forward. I urge my colleagues to support the San Luis Unit Drainage Resolution Act because its passage would result in the resolution of all drainage obligations for the United States and would move the responsibilities of drainage obligations to local control, similar to other jurisdictions across the state.”

Congressman Valadao stated, “I cannot stress enough the importance of this legislation so that we may finally end this decades old dispute. By passing my legislation, H.R. 4366, the San Luis Drainage Resolution Act, we are able to protect the economic stability of the most productive agriculture region in the world by preserving agriculture production and as a result, safeguarding thousands of desperately needed jobs in the region.” He continued, “Additionally, passage of this legislation will shield American taxpayers from potentially billions of dollars in future drainage and litigation costs by relieving the United States of its multi-billion dollar statutory and court-ordered drainage obligation. This common-sense agreement will settle this long-standing dispute, proving beneficial for all those involved. 

Video of Rep. Costa testifying before the subcommittee can be watched here.

Video of Rep. Valadao testifying before the subcommittee can be watched here.

Rep. Valadao’s bill, H.R. 4366, the San Luis Unit Drainage Resolution Act would authorize the following provisions which are part of the settlement agreement:

  • Provide $70 million appropriated/discretionary in funding to assist the Northerly Districts with the completion of the Westside Regional Drainage Plan.
  • Settle litigation with Westlands land owners and relieve the United States of its potentially multi-billion dollar statutory and court-ordered drainage obligation.
  • Require Westlands to manage drainage water within its boundaries, in accordance with the federal and California law, and provide Interior the right to cease water deliveries to Westlands if it fails to do so.
  • Require Westlands to indemnify the U.S. for any damages and pay compensation for landowner claims arising out of the Etchegoinberry litigation.
  • Relieve Westlands of its existing approximate $375 million ($295 million in April 2015 dollars) repayment obligation for CVP construction charges.
  • Require Westlands to permanently retire 100,000 acres of land within its boundaries.
  • Allow Westlands to assume title to certain facilities owned by the U.S.
  • Authorize the Secretary to convert Westlands’ existing water service contract entered into under section 9(e) of the 1939 to a repayment contract under section 9(d) of the same act.
  • Cap Westlands contract deliveries at 75% of its CVP contract amount. 

In addition to the provisions listed above, Congressman Costa’s bill, H.R. 5217 would also authorize the following: 

  • Require the Northerly Districts to assume all responsibility for drainage within their respective boundaries in accordance with all legal requirements under state and federal law.
  • Require the Northerly Districts to indemnify the U.S. for any damages and pay compensation for claims arising out of litigation related to drainage.
  • Allow the Northerly Districts to assume title to certain facilities owned by the U.S.
  • Relieve the U.S. of all statutory obligations to provide drainage to the Northerly Districts.
  • Relieve the Northerly Districts of their approximate $52.7 million repayment obligation (in April 2015 dollars) for CVP construction charges.
  • Convert the Northerly Districts water 9(e) water service contracts into 9(d) repayment contracts.

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