kesterson national wildlife refuge

Drainage Deal Imminent?

A tentative agreement is near in secret talks between the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation,the U.S. Justice Department and the Westlands Water District to settle three long-simmering drainage lawsuits, according to Interior Department sources. The settlement could be a bonanza for Westlands, which has been searching for half a century for a solution on how to safely dispose of farm drainwater containing salts, heavy metals and the trace element selenium. Westlands drainage triggered deformities in birds at evaporation ponds at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in Merced County more than 30 years ago. According to one source, Westlands will only have to retire a minimum amount of selenium-tainted soils even though a safe drainage solution has not been achieved. A current Reclamation plan to reduce or eliminate toxic drainwater will cost an estimated $2.7 billion for Westlands' 600 growers. Geologists say more than 300,000 acres of land in Westlands and adjacent water districts (state and federal) have elevated levels of selenium, a trace element highly toxic to birds and fish. Environmentalists have called for a cessation of farming on these tainted soils.  READ MORE »

Build Another Kesterson? You're joking, right?

 

By Lloyd G. Carter

           A southern San Joaquin Valley water district is proposing to build an 1,800-acre evaporation pond to dispose of toxic subsurface drainage water in a scenario eerily reminiscent of the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge poisoning in the early 1980s.  READ MORE »

How the West(lands) Was Won, a two-part series - Part One

By Lloyd G. Carter

Editor’s note: Part one of this series addresses the merits of Westlands Water District’s breach of contract claim in the U.S. Claims Court in Washington, D.C. Part Two addresses the Denver law firm hired to represent Westlands and its far flung political connections.

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     In the wake of the public relations debacle over the brief hiring of former federal judge Oliver Wanger, the Westlands Water District has now hired a high-powered Denver, Colorado law firm with close ties to Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar and political tentacles reaching to the highest levels of both the Democratic and Republican parties.

     Westlands, on January 6, 2012, quietly filed a complaint in the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, D.C. claiming the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation breached its 1963 contract with Westlands by failing for decades to build a drainage system to carry away Westlands’ toxic waste waters to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. There was no Westlands press release on the Court of Claims suit and no mainstream media picked up the story for almost a month.  READ MORE »

USGS critiques feds' water deal with farmers

Is another selenium-poisoned wildlife disaster like that which occurred at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in Merced County in the 1980s going to occur again? READ AN ARTICLE HERE about the latest United States Geological Survey report which indicates more problems for western San Joaquin Valley agriculture. CLICK HERE for the USGS report.  READ MORE »

Lloyd published in the Sacramento Bee

From the Sacramento Bee...

Lloyd G. Carter: A California water story of individual tenacity
By Lloyd G. Carter - Special to The Bee
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 25, 2008
Story appeared in EDITORIALS section, Page B7

You have to give 75-year-old Felix Smith of Carmichael credit for tenacity.

A quarter-century ago, Smith became the conscience of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when he blew the whistle on the selenium poisoning of the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in western Merced County.  READ MORE »

Bureau of Reclamation's Letter to the State Water Board RE: Selenium in Western San Joaquin

Felix Smith, the whistleblower on the bird deformities at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge back in the 1980s, has filed a complaint with the State Water Board over the continued irrigation of high selenium soils in the Western San Joaquin Valley. He wants the water board to declare irrigation of these tainted soils an unreasonable use of water under California law. He is joined in his complaint by the California Salmon and Steelhead Assocation. The Water Board has asked the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which supplies Northern California to federal irrigation districts farming the high selenium soils, to explain what is being done to solve the selenium crisis, now in its third decade. The Bureau of Reclamation recently replied to the Water Board's inquiry. See if you can spot the flaws in the Bureau of Reclamation's arguments that the problem is being solved. Here is the Bureau's response: CLICK HERE  READ MORE »

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