Sacramento, CA (September 16th, 2017) – In a resounding victory for fairness and good governance, lawmakers decisively passed a major water reform bill on the final day of the Legislative session. Assembly Bill 313, introduced by Adam Gray (D-Merced) and backed by Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID), makes critical changes to restore due process for the state’s water rights holders.
“We congratulate Assemblyman Gray for successfully championing this issue. The passage of this bill secures a victory for California’s communities that rely upon foundational water rights for the lifeline of reliable water,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “AB 313 received strong, bipartisan support from the get-go, a clear sign this issue stretched across party lines. Thanks to Assemblyman Gray’s leadership, AB 313 is one signature away from becoming law.”
BBID provided technical support in crafting the bill, which removes built-in conflicts of interest by establishing a new water rights management structure. AB 313 requires unbiased, administrative law judges to hear all water rights matters in a newly-created Water Rights Division in the Office of Administrative Hearings. The shift ensures these often complicated, controversial matters are heard by a neutral body.
Currently, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) exercises near-comprehensive control over California’s water rights. The SWRCB writes regulations, initiates enforcement actions, and conducts hearings in its own courtroom in which Board staff act as the prosecution and Board members act as judge and jury.
In a statement posted on his website, Assemblyman Gray said, “The region I represent is the target of a massive water grab from the State Water Resources Control Board. A water grab of this size would cost the local economy hundreds of millions of dollars. Despite receiving thousands of comments refuting the faulty science contained in their report, and repeated requests from community leaders to fully consider the impact of jeopardizing the drinking water supply of thousands of people, the water board is poised to dismiss our concerns and adopt the report. If there is any lesson this fight has taught me, it is that the Legislature has handed far too much power over to bureaucrats who simply do not care about the people I represent.”
“Throughout my time in the legislature, I have been working to restore fairness and create checks on the power of unelected bureaucrats on the State Water Board,” continued Gray. “The passage of AB 313 is a step in the right direction. This bill levels the playing field by ensuring that water rights holders receive the same due process and objectivity that our justice system promises everyone – nothing more, nothing less.”
AB 313’s productive transfer of power eliminates any potential duplicative efforts for any similar hearings and responsibility to fall under the SWRCB.
The bill now heads to Governor Brown’s desk for his signature.