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CSPA and C-WIN protest Westlands rescue through San Luis Drainage Resolution

by Bill Jennings, Executive Director, CSPA
January 17, 2009 -- CSPA and C-WIN have submitted comments to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation regarding the proposed San Luis Drainage Resolution Act. The Bureau's proposed legislation is nothing more than an attempted bailout of Westlands obligations to control toxic drainage that has resulted from irrigating lands that should never have experienced a plow. 

The Cretaceous sedimentary rock shales that underlie Westlands contain salts and trace elements like selenium, arsenic, boron and heavy metals.  Several layers of virtually impermeable clay lie below the shales.  Irrigation of these soils has led to high concentrations of these pollutants draining via surface and subsurface flow to the San Joaquin River.  Efforts to control these toxics led to the creation of Kesterson Reservoir and the disaster where selenium poisoning led to thousands of deformed birds.  Kesterson Reservoir was ordered closed by the State Water Board in 1985. 

Drainage from Westlands continues to discharge to the San Joaquin River at levels that are highly toxic to fish.  CSPA and CWIN oppose the legislation under development by the Bureau, maintain that supplemental environmental review is required and believe that the only ultimate environmentally safe solution is to retire the drainage impaired lands in Westlands and to redirect water presently being used to irrigate those lands to protect endangered species in the Delta.  Westlands currently receives almost a million acre feet of highly subsidized water exported from the Delta. 

CSPA C-WIN comment letter