BBID, Partnering Agencies Act to Keep Groundwater Management Local

Sacramento, CA (December 3, 2018) – In a significant step toward maintaining local control over sustainable groundwater management in East Contra Costa County, the State tentatively approved a boundary modification request of the Tracy Subbasin. The request was made on behalf of eight local water providers, including the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID). Late last week, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) issued a draft decision to approve it.

“Groundwater management will help shape the future of our region,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “These decisions are best made by those on the local level, on behalf of water users in East Contra Costa County.”

In 2014, Governor Brown signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). It requires local agencies to cooperatively form long-term plans for groundwater management. However, the way the law was initially written could potentially allow water users in Tracy and San Joaquin County to have undue influence over how groundwater is managed in East Contra Costa County. Local agencies, including BBID, sought to have the Tracy Subbasin subdivided along the Contra Costa and San Joaquin County line.

The City of Brentwood filed the boundary modification request on behalf of the City of Antioch, BBID, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa Water District, Diablo Water District, Discovery Bay Community Services District, and East Contra Costa Irrigation District. The coalition of agencies also distributed a letter to water users, soliciting input and explaining the reasoning behind the request.

Once the state’s draft approval decision becomes final, BBID’s service area will overlap two subbasins: the new East Contra Costa County Subbasin, and the remaining Tracy Subbasin. There, BBID is partnering with the West Side Irrigation District, Banta Carbona Irrigation District, the City of Tracy, and the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority to develop a plan for sustainable groundwater management.

BBID continues to work to meet upcoming SGMA requirements, including the development of a groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) in basins and subbasins classified by the state as medium or high priority. GSPs must be completed by January of 2022. The District previously acted to become a groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) following a public hearing in March 2017, ensuring the District will play an active role in groundwater management in its service area the surrounding region. Click here to learn more about SGMA.

Governor Brown Signs BBID-Backed Water Rights Fairness Bill

Sacramento, CA (September 24, 2018) – Landmark legislation crafted by Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) to restore Constitutional due process and restore fairness for California’s water right holders is now law. Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 747, a bill introduced by Assemblymember Anna Caballero (D-Salinas). AB 747 passed the Legislature by an overwhelming bipartisan majority.

“The Governor’s action cements a significant step toward improving the transparency, objectivity and accountability for California’s water rights administration and enforcement,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “This law will go a long way toward implementing the necessary checks and balances, as well as restoring the water community’s faith in the process.”

AB 747 establishes a fairer process for water right holders who for many years felt they had little choice but to settle enforcement actions brought against them by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). The SWRCB currently acts as both prosecutor and judge in enforcement actions initiated by the Board. This bill creates an Administrative Hearings Office within the SWRCB. Expert attorneys will serve as hearing officers to hear and adjudicate complex, critically important water rights matters. A similar structure is already in effect for many state agencies.

This legislation is the response to AB 313, which was introduced last session by Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced), and ultimately vetoed by Governor Brown. Since then, BBID and other local government districts proactively engaged the Brown Administration to find common ground.  AB 747 is the result of that effort.

“On behalf of the BBID Board of Directors, I would like to thank Assemblymember Caballero and her staff for all of their hard work, and recognize Assemblymember Gray’s important contributions at the outset of this effort,” said BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro. “We must also thank Governor Brown and his Administration for their recognition of this critical issue impacting communities statewide, and for their collaboration to reach a solution.”

The new hearing unit will take effect in the coming months.

BBID-Backed Water Rights Bill Passes, Headed to Gov. Brown’s Desk

Sacramento, CA (August 31, 2018) – In a decisive vote, lawmakers acted late Friday to pass Assembly Bill 747, water rights legislation introduced by Assemblymember Anna Caballero (D-Salinas). The bill crafted by Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) takes steps to restore Constitutional due process and fundamental fairness currently lacking for California’s water right holders. The bill passed the Senate and Assembly with strong bipartisan support on the last night of the legislative session.

“We commend Assemblymember Caballero for taking on this core issue impacting communities across California,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “This good governance legislation is the result of constructive collaboration with the Brown Administration and a collective recognition of the need for greater transparency, accountability, and – above all – fairness in our water rights administration.”

Currently, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) acts as both prosecutor and judge in enforcement actions the Board initiates against water users. AB 747 removes that built-in conflict of interest by creating an Administrative Hearings Office within the SWRCB. Expert attorneys will act as an objective third party to oversee and adjudicate complex, critically important water rights matters.

“Too often, water right holders feel they have no choice but to settle enforcement actions given the current structure,” Gilmore added. “AB 747 levels the playing field and will help restore faith in the process, ensuring water right holders get a fair shake as guaranteed by our Constitution.”

AB 747 is a follow-up to AB 313, which was previously introduced by Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced). AB 313 passed the Legislature with similarly strong support on both sides of the aisle, but was ultimately vetoed by Governor Brown. Since then, all parties have engaged in productive dialogue to reach a compromise that provides important protections for water rights holders.

“We would be remiss if we didn’t recognize Assemblymember Gray’s work on this issue,” Gilmore said. “From the very beginning, he championed this cause. We wouldn’t be where we are tonight without his tireless dedication.”

AB 747 now heads to Governor Brown’s desk for his signature.

U.S. Secretary of Interior: “Time for Action is Now”

In a move met with widespread praise and hope in the Central Valley, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior called on federal agencies to act to fix the broken Central Valley Project (CVP). Secretary Ryan Zinke’s memo on Friday directs the development of an action plan to maximize water deliveries and shore up operations of the federally-managed CVP, which Zinke described as being in “…a desperate state of disrepair.”

“For our growers and others in the Central Valley who have borne the brunt of failed policy and mismanagement, this is welcome news,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “The District wholeheartedly agrees with Secretary Zinke: the time to take action is now.”

Growers in Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID)’s CVP service area faced three consecutive years of zero-percent allocations. Even now, with many reservoirs at or above 100% of normal, the South-of-Delta CVP allocation began in 2018 at a mere 20%, and has since climbed to only 45%.

Secretary Zinke’s plan calls for maximizing water deliveries by incorporating the latest and greatest science into the decision-making process. It also includes the construction of new storage for the CVP, a “major source of farms, families, industry and fish and wildlife in California.”

Under the current CVP operation, he wrote, “communities have been harmed, productive land has stood fallow, and the populations of fish these particular water delivery limitations were intended to protect have seen no meaningful improvements.”

“The Secretary’s bold action renews hope for a more equitable approach,” Gilmore added. “We must restore reliability to strengthen the CVP. It is time to consider the reoperation of the Federal and State water projects to provide that much-needed balance.”

The Secretary allotted 15 days to develop an action plan, and ordered the Office of the Deputy Secretary make final recommendations within 10 days of receiving the report.

The full memo is below.

8.17.18 Memo

Congress Coalition Expresses “Fervent Opposition” to State Water Board Plan, Vows to Protect Water Supply

Members of the United States Congress are vowing to take action if the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) adopts a plan that calls for increased flows through the San Joaquin River. In a letter sent to the SWRCB, legislators say the proposal “clearly subordinates the beneficial human use of the water in favor of fish and wildlife measures of dubious validity…”

The full letter is below.

Letter to SWRCB Regarding Unimpaired Flow

SLDMWA: State Water Board Bay-Delta Plan “Not Supported by Policy, Science or Law”

The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority‘s member agencies, including the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, submitted the below letter to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), expressing “significant disappointment” in response to the SWRCB’s plan for unimpaired flows through the Southern Delta and South San Joaquin River.

It says, in part: “…The approach taken to protect water quality for the beneficial use of water by San Joaquin River watershed fish populations (often referred to as the “San Joaquin River flow objectives”) is crude… not supported by credible science.”

The letter continues: “In addition, the proposed Program of Implementation inexplicably imposes new requirements – minimum storage requirements for the reservoirs on tributaries to the San Joaquin River and a requirement that flows are protected “through Delta.” It also directly and “as applied” prematurely assigns responsibility to water right holders. The addition of new requirements and assignment of responsibility, which will affect vested property interests, are not supported by the facts or the law.”

Read the full statement below.

2018-07-27 Ltr to SWRCB re Bay-Delta Plan Comments

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation: State Water Board Bay-Delta Plan Prioritizes Fish & Wildlife Over Cities & Farms

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) sent the following letter to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), urging the SWRCB to reconsider key components of its Bay-Delta Plan Update for the Lower San Joaquin River and Southern Delta. The SWRCB’s plan calls for 40% of unimpaired flows, which will result in significant reductions in available water.

The Bureau’s letter says, in part: “…The Board amendments essentially elevate the [New Melones] Project’s fish and wildlife purposes over the Project’s irrigation and domestic purposes contrary to the prioritization scheme carefully established by Congress.”

The full letter, as well as the Bureau’s technical comments, are below:

BOR_Letter_Bay_Delta_Plan