Interior proposes coveted deal to ex-client of agency head

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Interior Department is proposing to award a contract for federal water in perpetuity to a water district that had employed Secretary David Bernhardt.

Environmental groups and a California Democratic lawmaker are objecting to the deal, saying Interior is pushing it through without adequate public involvement or environmental review. Environmental groups say Interior still has not disclosed the full financial terms.

The contract would go to California's Westlands Water District, the nation's largest agricultural water supplier. Westlands serves some of country's wealthiest and politically influential corporate farmers. Bernhardt was a registered lobbyist for Westlands until 2016.

Asked about the contract, Interior spokeswoman Carol Danko says it was handled entirely by Interior staffers in California. Final approval would have to come from the agency after a public comment period.