Water Deliveries Begin Despite COVID-19 Pandemic

Byron, CA (March 27, 2020) – At the outset of the growing season, crews with Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) are maintaining operations. Water deliveries for our growers will continue despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and the District’s water supplies are not impacted.

The District is following all CDC recommendations to help combat the spread of the virus. BBID has instituted management practices to protect employees, all of whom serve essential functions for the District. Staff are working remotely when possible, and field crews are following social distancing guidelines.

“We are all in this together,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “While we do our part to keep our crews and communities safe from COVID-19, we are also ensuring reliable water deliveries continue to support agriculture, an essential industry.”

San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority Board Elects Officers for 2020

LOS BANOS, CA – Cannon Michael, a 6th generation California farmer was re-elected chairman of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (Authority). Michael is president of Bowles Farming Company, a family owned and operated farming company headquartered in Los Banos. Michael also serves as chair of the Henry Miller Reclamation District, is a board member with the Water Education Foundation and serves as an advisory board member of the Public Policy Institute of California.

Following his re-election, Michael said, “The Authority plays a critical role in managing a significant part of the Central Valley Project. It is a big responsibility to oversee the operations that bring project water to over a million acres of farmland, 2 million California residents and important wildlife refuges along the Pacific Flyway.

“It is very rewarding to work with a great group of directors who have the knowledge and skill to solve complex water issues. Our board is supported by a tremendous group of employees who work tirelessly to make sure water is delivered safely, reliably, and efficiently.

“It is an honor to work with our member agencies who represent urban, agricultural and environmental uses of water, and all work on innovative solutions to improve water reliability for their areas,” he said.

Elected to serve as vice-chair of the Authority is William Bordeau. Bordeau is Executive Vice President of farming operations for Harris Farms and is a board member of the Westlands Water District. Bordeau also serves as chairman of the Valley Future Foundation, the California Water Alliance, and serves on the board of the Agricultural Foundation at California State University, Fresno. He replaces former Westlands Water District Chairman Don Peracchi.

Bordeau said, “It is an honor to serve in this leadership capacity on the Authority board of directors. There are critical needs within the communities in the San Joaquin and Santa Clara valleys. Having access to reliable water supplies lies at the heart of their economies and quality of life. We take that responsibility seriously and strive to do it as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Bowles Farming Company is an organic and conventional farm growing fresh market and processing tomatoes, field crops including corn, melons, carrots and onions, alfalfa for local dairies and other commodities such as durum wheat for bread, pima cotton, pistachios and almonds. Other activities include managing wetlands and habitat restoration on the family farm.

Harris Farms is a diversified farming and hospitality company founded in 1937 and based near Coalinga, California.

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) is a member agency of the Authority.

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The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority serves 28 member public agencies, 25 of which contract with Reclamation for water supply from the CVP. These agencies deliver water to approximately 1.2 million acres of farmland, 2 million California residents, and millions of waterfowl dependent upon the nearly 200,000 acres of managed wetlands within the Pacific Flyway.

Dry Weather Leads to Low Water Allocation

Sacramento, CA (February 25, 2020) – Today, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) issued an initial water supply allocation of 15% for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID).

After a promising start to winter, dry conditions have returned across California. It has rained more in February in Death Valley than in Sacramento. The statewide snowpack is below average, and the long-range forecast indicates the lack of rain and snowfall may continue.

This image released by the National Weather Service, illustrates the dramatic difference between this year and last year’s snowpack.

“While we certainly wish Reclamation was able to issue a higher allocation, we recognize they must be responsive to our state’s current conditions,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “The looming threat of the next drought underscores the need for adaptative water management. Implementing the new biological opinions abandons an outdated, restrictive approach in favor of real-time, cutting-edge science to best meet the needs of cities, farms and the environment.”

For the first time in a decade, updated biological opinions were issued last week. Those federal rules govern water use through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Had those biological opinions been in place last year, it is estimated that the projects would have been able to save more than one-million acre-feet of additional water. That would be tremendously valuable in any year, but especially in a dry one like 2020. At a 15% allocation, growers in BBID’s CVP service area will have a baseline water supply of just 0.51 acre-feet of water per acre – down from 3.4 acre-feet per acre with a full allocation.

“This initial allocation also underlines the need for investment in our water systems, including increasing storage to save more water during wet years for use during dry ones; and more conveyance to move water more flexibly, ensuring reliability in the face of increasingly unpredictable, extreme weather patterns.”

Fire District Updates BBID Board on “Serious Challenges”

Byron, CA (February 18, 2020) – On Tuesday, the representatives from the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) addressed the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) Board of Directors, describing how understaffing challenges are impacting multiple communities, including some of those in BBID’s service area.

The ECCFPD serves a 249-square mile area encompassing Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Bethel Island, Marsh Creek, Morgan Territory, Byron, Knightsen, and surrounding rural communities. The District is an independent special district.

Today, District Fire Chief Brian Helmick explained that ECCFPD faces serious challenges: the District operates three fire stations, each staffed by three firefighters, for a total of nine firefighters at any given time – an inadequate amount of staffing for a community of 115,000 people. Chief Helmick said that ECCFPD is critically underfunded.

ECCFPD highlighted two main problems: past growth without adequate funding, and projected future growth which will place even greater demand on fire services. Chief Helmick delivered this presentation detailing the situation. He also shared the below video with BBID Directors.

“We appreciate ECCFPD taking the time to further educate our Board about this important issue impacting the region,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “We support their efforts to strengthen critical fire protection in BBID’s service area.”

ECCFPD is conducting a region-wide outreach effort, educating community members and other stakeholders about how to get involved. To learn more, please visit www.eccfpd.org.

Gov. Newsom Protects CA Water Supply, Collaborative Solutions with SB 1 Veto

Byron, CA (September 28, 2019) – Responding to widespread input from a statewide coalition of business leaders and water agencies, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday vetoed Senate Bill 1 (Atkins). The Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) and dozens of other organizations voiced strong opposition to the bill, which threatened to hurt California’s water supply reliability and derail critically important collaboration aimed at finding solutions to fix the Delta.

“Byron-Bethany Irrigation District commends Gov. Newsom for his decisive action in sending SB 1 back to the Legislature,” said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore. “We appreciate his ongoing willingness to engage with California’s water community in search of workable solutions to protect both our environment, and the reliability and resiliency of our water supplies. Unfortunately, SB 1 as written would have done more harm than good. Thankfully, Gov. Newsom recognized that.”

The bill, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), passed in the waning hours of the legislative session. In his veto message, Gov. Newsom said that he “disagree[d] with the efficacy and necessity of SB 1.”

In more than 100 meetings with legislators on both sides of the aisle, BBID argued that the bill would have created an impassable roadblock to continuing the Voluntary Settlement Agreement (VSA) process, one of the most consequential, collaborative efforts in the history of California water. The VSAs would create a foundational framework for increased water management flexibility, habitat restoration, and protect endangered fish populations. Moreover, cutting-edge science developed over the past decade with millions of dollars of investments would have been discarded under SB 1.

“In Gov. Newsom’s directive to create a Water Resilience Portfolio, he called for creative solutions to meet our unprecedented water challenges,” added Gilmore. “Locking us into out-of-date science contradicts that call, and severely hampers our ability to meet the growing, evolving water needs of the state. We are grateful for his recognition of SB 1’s shortcomings in this regard.”

“Moreover, we are incredibly thankful for the help of a bi-partisan coalition of state and federal lawmakers, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who spoke out about the negative impacts of the bill,” Gilmore continued. “Now, we must continue to seek common ground for environmental stewardship, while using our best available science to meet the needs of the future.”

SB 1: A Threat to California’s Water Supply

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) is joining a broad-based coalition of water agencies, business leaders and concerned constituents in calling for lawmakers to fix Senate Bill 1 (Atkins). SB 1 threatens water supply reliability for millions of Californians and threatens to derail the Voluntary Settlement Agreements in the Delta. Read more below!

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BBID Seeks to Recover Fees from State in Landmark Water Rights Case

San Jose, CA (August 5, 2019) –On Monday, Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) filed a motion in Santa Clara County Superior Court, seeking to recover nearly $2 million in attorneys’ fees from the State of California.

The motion is directly related to an enforcement action brought by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) against BBID shortly after BBID sued the SWRCB over unlawful curtailment notices issued by the SWRCB to more than a thousand pre-1914 water rights holders, including BBID. Over BBID’s objection, the Santa Clara Court stayed BBID’s lawsuit pending completion of the administrative hearing of the SWRCB’s enforcement action.

The SWRCB’s enforcement action sought enforcement of the curtailment notices against BBID for diverting water when allegedly none was available under its priority of right, and seeking a $5 million fine. On the third day of the administrative hearing before the SWRCB, BBID’s legal team successfully argued that the evidence submitted by the SWRCB litigation team failed to meet its burden of proof, and the SWRCB hearing officer granted BBID’s motion for judgment dismissing the enforcement action.

After the dismissal of the enforcement action, BBID resumed its related lawsuit, and on April 3, 2018, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Brian Walsh issued his Statement of Decision holding, among other things, that the SWRCB lacks jurisdiction to enforce priority of rights between pre-1914 and riparian water rights. The Court’s ruling solidifies the oldest water rights in California. Judge Walsh also held that the curtailment notices violated BBID’s due process rights because they commanded immediate curtailment of water rights and threatened large fines without providing water right holders an opportunity to challenge the findings upon which the notices were based.

BBID now seeks recovery of the significant legal fees and costs incurred defending its senior water rights, and those held by the state’s other pre-1914 and riparian water right holders. The hearing of BBID’s motion is set for October 18th.

Read the full court documents below.