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Negotiating the Westlands Case

December 19, 1985

You reported in an editorial (Nov. 29) that the Interior Department may have concluded a "secret deal" with the Westlands Water District. Let me assure you that we have struck no deal, secret or otherwise.

We are, however, involved in negotiations to determine whether it will be possible to resolve the litigation concerning this matter. If we do reach an agreement, and it is too early at this juncture to know whether we will, it will be reviewed by the Justice Department and submitted to the court considering this case. It will not become effective until its merits have been reviewed carefully in a public judicial proceeding.

At the encouragement of the Federal Judge presiding over this case, the Department and Westlands have been negotiating to resolve this lawsuit for over two years.

As you noted, some newspaper accounts, which are attributed to people who are not parties to the negotiations, paint an alarming picture of the progress of these negotiations. If some of the provisions reported in these stories were true, we would be the first to oppose them.

The Interior Department, for example, never would agree to a provision that would shift the major burden of drainage costs from the Westlands water users to the taxpayers as a whole or to other water users.

We will continue to negotiate in good faith to reach a settlement acceptable to the U.S. Government that will protect the interests of the taxpayers.

I am committed to the process of negotiating to reach a consensus on this and other cases. This process has served the taxpayers well, especially in cases in which there are long-standing disputes, and I see no reason for abandoning it now.


Secretary of the Interior


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