Obama’s Westlands Solar District opportunity
The Fresno Bee’s Mark Grossi reports that Westlands Water District is suing the feds for not providing drainage services for 600,000 acres of salt-laden lands. Why wouldn’t they sue?
I have blogged about this issue here and here. Respectively, these posts address 1/ the dubious success of a pilot project bypass drainage service infrastructure and 2/ the problem that the feds got themselves into when they agreed to “provide drainage services” in the first place.
With regard to Westlands, it is time for the federal government to correct its two major errors. The first was in its complicity in the creation of an ostensibly viable Westlands Water District in 1952. The second was when it created a federal responsibility, under Bush 41, the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, to “provide drainage services” to Westlands.
The Westlands would love it if the government would throw good money after bad here. Westlands will of course oppose the idea of being bought out - that it is among the most productive agricultural regions in the world, it is bad for national food security policy to take it out of production, jobs will be lost, prices for food will go up, etc. - but the problem is that the government cannot do what is is contractually obliged to do: provide drainage services.
And everyone but Westlands will complain Why should Westlands get a big bailout - hypocrites because they are opposed to gov’t handouts except to the wealthy, they still haven’t paid off the costs for building the infrastructure that brings them their (Delta) water, they are a bunch of wealthy land speculators, etc. - but the problem is that Westlands will continue to pursue a legal course of action until it gets what it has been promised when it comes to someone else having to pay for dealing with the polluting consequences of irrigating their toxic property.
So, this is not a question of whether Westlands deserves more water, or less water, or whose fault it is that they do or should get it at all. Unless I misunderstand the implications of the CVPIA, Westlands has a case with this latest litigation. And in the long run, it makes much more sense to just buy them out, whatever the costs, than it does to pay them off now, and again, and again…
After all, Westlands would be an excellent place to build a very large solar collection infrastructure. And even they know it. And despite the opposition’s rhetoric on Solyndra, a Westlands Solar District would create a new, green supply of electricity, and many high-quality, federally-funded jobs in the process.