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House Committee Approves Valadao Westlands Drainage Dispute Legislation

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Washington, October 16, 2016 | Anna R. Vetter ((202) 815-1685) | comments
On Wednesday, November 16, 2016, the House Committee on Natural Resources approved H.R. 4366, the San Luis Unit Drainage Resolution Act, legislation introduced by U.S. Congressman David G. Valadao.
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WASHINGTON - Today, Wednesday, November 16, 2016, the House Committee on Natural Resources approved H.R. 4366, the San Luis Unit Drainage Resolution Act, legislation introduced by U.S. Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-21).

This legislation, introduced in January of this year, authorizes the settlement of a long-standing dispute between the United States and the Westlands Water District concerning the management of drainage water within Westlands’ service area in the San Luis Unit of the Central Valley Project (CVP). Congressional approval of the settlement would save American taxpayers billions of dollars.

Under the legislation, the United States will be relieved of potential liability of $3.5 billion for the statutory obligation to manage drainage water. The bill includes concessions made by both the Federal Government and Westlands Water District to resolve the dispute. Westlands will dismiss its drainage related claims against the U.S. and indemnify the U.S. for any damages for landowner claims arising out of pending takings litigation against the federal government. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the potential liability of the United States for these claims could exceed more than $2 billion. Importantly, no other CVP contractor will see their water supply jeopardized by the enactment of this legislation.

Following approval of the legislation by the House Committee, Congressman David Valadao stated, “In order to move forward with the settlement agreed to by both Westlands and the U.S. Department of Justice last year, this bill has to be passed by Congress and I am pleased the Committee approved my legislation.” He continued, “Enactment of this legislation is a positive step in resolving a long-standing drainage dispute and will ultimately save taxpayers billions of dollars that can be better utilized on meaningful water storage projects to increase water deliveries to the Central Valley.”

Specifically, the legislation will:

• Settle the above litigation and relieve the U.S. of its 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 the Department of 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 capital repayment obligations under its water service contract with the United States
• Require Westlands to permanently retire 100,000 acres of land within its boundaries
• Authorize the Secretary of the Interior 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

H.R. 4366, as amended, was adopted and favorably reported to the House of Representatives by the Committee by a roll call vote of 27 yeas and 12 nays. The markup memo from the House Natural Resources Committee can be found here.

Congressman David G. Valadao represents the 21st Congressional District, which includes Kings County and portions of Fresno, Tulare, and Kern Counties.


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U.S. Congressman David G. Valadao

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