According to the L.A. Times, the "Westlands Water District, a sprawling San Joaquin Valley farm district with ties to the Trump administration, is poised to get a permanent entitlement to a massive quantity of cheap federal irrigation supplies."
How much are they supposed to get? "1.15 million acre-feet of water."
BUT..."There is no guarantee it will get that, since Westlands is low in the federal project’s pecking order and is among the first cut in times of shortage. Since 1990, it has received its full allotment in only four years." Conclusion: Even with all the water available last year they only received 55%.
The article goes on to say "long-term control would also allow Westlands to make lucrative water sales to thirsty cities and other agricultural agencies"...Conclusion: BUT, "To date Westlands hasn’t sold any water outside of its district. We don’t sell the water for a handsome profit.”
Why were they able to make the deal? "Westlands asked for the new agreement under provisions of the 2016 WIIN Act, which opened the door for all reclamation contractors across the West to convert their water service contracts to permanent contracts if they repaid what they still owe federal taxpayers for construction of a federal water project." Conclusion: So, they followed the law.
So, how much do they still owe? "In a letter to Westlands, the reclamation bureau last year estimated that the district owed the government $320.5 million as of June 2018."
BUT, "In 2015 Westlands struck a settlement over drainage services that courts had ruled the federal government was legally obligated to provide...Under the settlement, Westlands agreed to assume drainage responsibility, said it would permanently retire 100,000 acres of badly drained land and would also accept a 25% cut to its water contract."
SO, "In return, the government agreed to forgive Westlands’ construction debt — then roughly $350 million — and give the district a permanent contract for the reduced delivery amount."
Conclusion: If you follow the story you can see the federal government had some obligations with regard to drainage, and made a deal for Westlands to assume the responsibility in exchange for the water contract.
The headline - Feds set to lock in huge water contract for well-connected Westlands Water District - would have you believe Westlands is getting something because of their powerful connections. Conclusion: It looks like they just followed the law and made a deal.