On April 8, 2016, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (“Metropolitan”) executed a purchase and sale agreement with Delta Wetlands Properties to purchase 20,000 acres in the Delta. The property includes Bouldin Island, Bacon Island, Webb Tract, Holland Tract, and a portion of Chipps Island, along with easements, rights-of-way, title, interests and rights, such as mineral rights, development rights, air rights, water allocations and water rights.
The Metropolitan Board of Directors approved the purchase in March, but the $175 million price was not disclosed to the public until the agreement was executed. Metropolitan has until 5:00 PM Pacific Time on June 3, 2016 to complete a due diligence investigation, and the closing date is scheduled to be June 8, 2016.
Delta landowners, however, object to Metropolitan’s purchase.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla of Restore the Delta told the Sacramento Bee, “We believe that having MWD as a neighbor is an existential threat to the future of the Delta and Delta communities.”
Furthering the controversy, on April 14, 2016, Food and Water Watch, Planning and Conservation League, San Joaquin County and Contra Costa County announced that they were filing a lawsuit asking the court to enjoin the purchase until Metropolitan completes an environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). Fearing a water grab, they argue that the purchase has the ultimate purpose of supplying Delta water to Southern California and that it would have a significant impact on the environment.
Metropolitan is exploring the possibility of using the islands as staging ground for the equipment and excavated dirt to help facilitate California WaterFix, but they maintain that no plan has been decided.
In a response reported by Stockton’s The Record, Cathy Stites, Metropolitan’s senior deputy general counsel, maintained, “Metropolitan is simply buying property, and we don’t believe that constitutes a project under CEQA.”
Plaintiffs requested a temporary restraining order to block the purchase pending a hearing on the lawsuit. On April 29, 2016, California Superior Court Judge Barbara Kronlund rejected that request. The hearing was scheduled for May 19th.
Written by Marta L. Weismann