Agriculture

Rural Valley cities secure permanent water supply in deal with Feds

Three rural Valley cities finalized deals with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to cement permanent access to water from the Central Valley Project on Monday, the Federal bureau announced.

The cities of Avenal, Coalinga, and Huron converted their water contracts with Federal water authorities along with Firebaugh-based Pacheco Water District and Panoche Water District, and Los Banos-based San Luis Water District. 

The move signals an end to negotiations that took over a year and a half to complete.

Under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, the Bureau of Reclamation has undertaken the conversion of water services contracts to repayment contracts upon the request of its water users.

These cities and water districts – along with 90 others, including State of California agencies – initiated the process in May 2019.

Fresno-based Westlands Water District was the first entity to convert to a permanent contract in November 2019.

Contractors convert their contracts with the Bureau of Reclamation from temporary, renewable water services agreements to permanent repayment contracts. 

Water users pay a single fee per acre-foot of water used to repay the federal government for constructions costs associated with the Central Valley Project as well as its costs for maintaining and operating the project. 

With the contract conversions, agricultural water users can prepay construction costs owed to the federal government. 

Last May, three environmental groups – the Center for Biological Diversity, Restore the Delta, and Planning and Conservation League – filed a Federal suit contesting the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s moves to convert water service contracts to permanent repayment contracts for Central Valley Project users.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

According to the Bureau of Reclamation, the prepaid money will be placed in an account to fund much-needed storage projects. 

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.