Fresno Area Water District Buys Large Farm in North Delta Region
The south Yolo ranch owned by farmer Duncan McCormack has been purchased by the nation's largest irrigation district. Westlands Water District, the Fresno-based irrigation district will reportedly pay $12M for 3,450 acres located on the southern tip of Yolo County to ease pressure on the state's water system.
In a December 15 article published by the Davis Enterprise, the acquisiton will also enable the restoration of wetlands and wildlife habitat in the environmentally sensitive Yolo Bypass. According to the Enterprise, the district irrigates more than 600,000 acres of crops in western Fresno and King counties. But its water supply is jeopardized by the decline of the threatened delta smelt.
The report also states that by flooding the ranch and restoring smelt habitat, the district hopes to boost the number of fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and free up water for farmers... and Westlands General Manager Tom Birmingham said the district wants to help the endangered species. He said the disctrict recognizes that its a sensitive issue and plans to "be a good neighbor" in Yolo County.
Endangered species aside, the focus of Westlands has to do with water supply... not saving wildlife. Although there are intrinsic benefits to wildlife within their mission of providing water, saving the smelt is a convenient side bar to the acquistion of the McCormack Ranch. If you click the title of this post, you will find the district's statement about land acquisition:
"Westlands is pursuing land acquisition as a means to address chronic water shortages and drainage issues. The program, financed entirely by farmers in the District, anticipates the purchase of approximately 100,000 acres of drainage-impacted land by 2007. By removing these acquired lands from irrigated agriculture, and reallocating water to land remaining in production, the District is able to provide farmers a more reliable and adequate water supply to ensure the long-term viability of west side communities and preserve the $3.5 billion per year of economic benefits created by District farming activity. This program is separate and distinct from an earlier and now inactive proposal by the United State to retire up to 200,000 acres of farmland in Westlands."
"In recognition that land acquisition could result in short-term economic impacts on the Valley’s west side, Westlands is working with local officials to identify alternative and productive uses for District-owned land. Recently, the District provided land for a federal prison near Mendota that will provide several hundred new jobs. Other potential beneficial uses for these farmlands include wildlife habitat, economic development and local flood control."
This also from their Web site: "It is the mission of Westlands Water District to provide a timely, reliable and affordable water supply to its landowners and water users, and to provide drainage service to those lands that need it. To this end, Westlands is committed to the preservation of its federal contract, which includes water and drainage service, and to the acquisition of additional water necessary to meet the needs of its landowners and water users."
"Formed in 1952, Westlands encompasses more than 600,000 acres of farmland in western Fresno and Kings counties. The District serves approximately 600 family-owned farms that average 900 acres in size."
"Water is delivered to Westlands through the Central Valley Project, a federal water project that stores water in large reservoirs in Northern California for use by cities and farms throughout California. After it is released from CVP reservoirs, the water is pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and delivered 70 miles through the Delta-Mendota Canal to San Luis Reservoir. During the spring and summer, the water is released from San Luis Reservoir and delivered to Westlands farmers through the San Luis Canal and the Coalinga Canal. Once it leaves the federal project canals, water is delivered to farmers through 1,034 miles of underground pipe and more than 3,300 water meters."
"Westlands farmers produce more than 60 high quality commercial food and fiber crops sold for the fresh, dry, canned and frozen food markets, both domestic and export. More than 50,000 people live and work in the communities dependent on the District's agricultural economy. The communities in and near the District's boundaries include Mendota, Huron, Tranquillity, Firebaugh, Three Rocks, Cantua Creek, Helm, San Joaquin, Kerman, Lemoore and Coalinga."
Lastly, the Westlands Water District has long-term contractual and legal entitlements with the United States for a firm supply of 1,150,000 acre-feet (AF) of Central Valley Project (CVP) water during each water year. In some years, the district may acquire additional water pursuant to its entitlements, or other water. The contracts between Westlands and the US allow the district to make CVP water available for not only agricultural, but municipal, industrial and domestic uses, as well. The district may acquire additional water supplies for all of those purposes.