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Valley Farmers May Get Settlement

The Justice Department has cleared the way for an initial payment to be made in a $107 million settlement between the federal government and San Joaquin Valley farmers whose land was damaged by decades of intensive irrigation and poor drainage.

A judge approved the settlement on February sixth for about 100 farming families in the nation´s largest agricultural irrigation district. The landowners sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for allegedly failing to provide a promised drainage system. The families claimed the salts in irrigation water accumulated to damage the farmland.

The settlement is part of a larger move to retire a total of 200,000 damaged acres in the 600,000-acre Westlands district. Estimates of this farmland buyout range as high as $500 million.