CSPA Advisory July 2, 2010
CSPA Sues to Seek Return of Kern Water Bank to Public Control
“We're not going to stand aside and allow a few very powerful and wealthy water barons to illegally privatize a publicly funded facility worth hundreds of millions of dollars so they can reap vast profits from growing nut trees in the desert and building thousands of speculative McMansions in the wilderness,” said Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. “All while our rivers and streams are dewatered, farms fallowed, and fish and wildlife plunge toward extinction.”
The water bank, a massive underground reservoir in Kern County built by the state's Department of Water Resources, was illegally gifted to powerful corporate agribusiness interests and real-estate speculators as part of the controversial “Monterey Plus Amendments” to the State Water Project system.
California's state constitution expressly forbids any agency giving away or “gifting” of state assets to private interests. The current lawsuit asserts that the Kern County Water Agency gifted the Kern Water Bank to the Kern Water Bank Authority, a public-private joint powers authority controlled by Paramount Farming Company (one of the world's largest agricultural and holding companies) and Tejon Ranch Company (the massive landholding corporation seeking to develop several new cities north of Los Angeles - including the largest development ever proposed in California).
The suit is the coalition's second in the last month over the State Water Project. The first targeted the Department of Water Resources for approving the Monterey Plus Amendments - a huge set of structural changes for how the State Water Project is managed. In one of those changes, the department transferred the Kern Water Bank to an entity called the Kern County Water Agency. That agency then quickly handed over the water bank to the newly formed Kern Water Bank Authority. The latest suit seeks to bring the Kern Water Bank back into state control.