Westlands Water District’s Johnny Amaral writes a response to Mark Arax in the Fresno Bee:
The article also criticizes an agreement between Westlands and the Obama administration. That agreement resolves a decades-long problem involving drainage facilities for the Central Valley Project, relieves taxpayers of billions of dollars of liability and requires Westlands to take over the responsibility to manage drainage in the future. Neither side got everything they wanted, but the process of negotiation worked.
At a time when many Americans are tired of the governments’ inability to work together to solve problems, this settlement ought to be treated as a model for how to get things done.
I should certainly hope not! I don’t like the terms of exchange, but those aside, this settlement is a terrible model for others. It has no terms for determining whether Westlands keeps its side of the bargain. It doesn’t establish a program for monitoring whether Westlands has fulfilled its duty to treat drainage, or set standards for treatment (salt concentrations, ppm) that Westlands must meet, nor set any remedy for what happens if Westlands doesn’t meet a standard. If Westlands doesn’t treat its drainage water adequately, what happens? Westlands gets no water the following year? Westlands pays a fine? The entire contract is nullified?
This settlement has no way to determine whether Westlands performs its side of the bargain, but of a certainty, Westlands will insist that the federal government performs its side. Bad bargain aside, this is a terrible model for acting in the public interest.