Westlands

Posted on | November 2, 2009 | No Comments

Westlands Water District. Source: NASA's Earth Observatory.

AS STAGE armies work Sacramento for their pieces of a proposed $9 plus billion water bill and bond, attorney Lloyd G. Carter would have us wipe some tears from our eyes about the plight of Westlands Water District.

Carter, a former UPI and Fresno Bee reporter, now a deputy in the California Attorney General’s office, has a new article on the subject in the Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal.

He writes of Westlands in Reaping Riches from a Wretched Region: “federal irrigation and farm-subsidy policy in the San Luis Unit since the 1960s has exacerbated grinding poverty while enriching a few dozen of the factory farming dynasties to the detriment of the environment, the human population of the region, small growers, and the public fisc. There are few farms under 500 acres. Rule is by the rich. Indeed, in Westlands, which is a public agency, the growers with the most land have the most votes in electing directors to the district‘s board. The late Justice William O. Douglas called this voting control by the big growers a ―corporate political kingdom undreamed of by those who wrote our Constitution.”

Carter concludes, “Now, even with new legislation that will determine the future viability of Westlands’ critical irrigation import infrastructure, it seems inevitable that the political clout of the nation‘s most powerful irrigation district will somehow prevail to perpetuate this culture of social, economic, and natural inequity.”

Thanks to Oregon State University professor Michael Campana, publisher of WaterWired, for directing readers to Carter’s new article. For a lecture by Carter at Oregon State University posted by WaterWired, click here.

UPDATE 11/05/2009: Westlands is happy with the $11.1 billion package of water deals passed by the California State Legislature yesterday. To see how happy, click here.

This post has been updated.

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