The Monterey Accord and its cession of the Kern Water Bank from the State to local interests is an important story. Here's a short summary:
· In 1991, the fifth year of a drought, the State Water Project had very little water to deliver. The SWP, operating under a system of "urban preference", allocated a small amount of water to its urban customers and none to its farmers.
· The Kern County Water Agency, by far the SWP's largest agricultural customer was apoplectic. On top of getting no water, they still had to pay a hefty fixed cost for the original construction of the project (essentially a mortgage payment for their share of the Oroville Dam, the Harvey O. Banks Pumping Plant and the California Aqueduct). Kern threatened to sue.
· Threatened by the lawsuit, in 1995 the State Water Project Contractors and the California Department of Water Resources held a set of closed door meetings in Monterey. At these meetings, Clark negotiated for the State to cede the Kern Water Bank, a massive aquifer conveniently located adjacent to the California Aqueduct, to private interests in Kern County.
· As part of his negotiating tactics or maybe just for fun, Clark handed out pacifiers to his counterparts when he perceived they were whining.
· The Kern Water Bank was handed over to its principal investors. Most prominent among them are Stuart and Lynda Resnick, California's largest "farmers" and owners of the Wonderful Company. Wonderful's website boasts that it is "making the world a better place, one brand at a time". Wonderful also has many detractors. Mother Jones, for example, wrote a scathing article criticizing Wonderful for using more water than all homes in Los Angeles combined.
· In some ways, the Kern Water Bank is the poster child of how a water bank should work. The bank is recharged in wet years and can be drawn down in dry ones, providing additional reliability. The bank allows Wonderful and other farming companies to invest in valuable orchard crops with limited risk. Many, if not most, however, argue that these benefits should be in public hands and more evenly distributed.