Central Valley

Feds boost Westside water deliveries

WASHINGTON -- Interior Department officials Monday again boosted their planned irrigation water deliveries to the San Joaquin Valley, giving farmers 45 percent of their standard allocation.

The new allocation is up from a 40 percent allocation announced in May.

"This latest increase in allocation is a result of favorable weather conditions this spring and better-than-expected pumping conditions in the south Delta," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar explained Monday afternoon.

Other federal water allocations throughout California remain the same. Farmers north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will still get 100 percent of their allocation, while municipal and industrial water users south of the Delta will still get 75 percent.

Salazar has been under political pressure all year to boost irrigation water deliveries, with California lawmakers from both parties insisting that environmental restrictions have been too strict.

"Obviously, we're pleased," Westlands Water District spokeswoman Sarah Woolf said. "We're always grateful when we receive additional water supplies."

The congressman who represents the sprawling Westlands district, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, added that the new announcement means "more water and more jobs for our Valley." Costa also sought to cast the new announcement as an example of the wielding of political clout.

"We took on Valley outsiders who tried to cut off our water," Costa declared.

In some cases, decisions restricting irrigation water deliveries originated from inside the Valley. These have included past decisions by Fresno-based U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger, a Republican appointee, who has challenged the adequacy of water protections for endangered species.