Governor Brown Vetoes BBID-Backed Water Rights Fairness Bill

Sacramento, CA (October 16, 2017) – Late Sunday night, Governor Brown vetoed Assembly Bill 313, a bill introduced by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) to promote fairness and due process in California’s water rights enforcement. Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) provided technical support in crafting the bill.

“The deck is stacked against the state’s water rights holders, and the State Water Resources Control Board holds all the cards,” said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore. “They act as the judge, jury and prosecutor of the water world with immense impunity and no accountability. When the scales are tipped, water users lose faith in the process. The Governor could have restored some balance to this badly-broken system by signing AB 313.”

The bill received strong bipartisan support from the beginning and passed multiple policy committees, including the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill was amended to include feedback from several water community stakeholders and environmental NGOs, and a broad coalition of water agencies and organizations across the state urged the Governor to sign it.

“Rarely have we seen such unity in the water community,” Gilmore said. “Clearly, the legislature agreed with overwhelming votes in both Houses that AB 313 is good public policy, and the Water Board’s decision-making process is inappropriate.”

The State Water Board currently writes the rules, initiates enforcement actions, then decides in its own court whether the alleged violator is guilty – with the Board’s own staff acting as prosecutors and Board members acting as the judge. AB 313 was a solution to the problem. The bill called for administrative law judges in a newly-created Water Rights Division to preside over water rights hearings, ensuring an objective, expert third party would adjudicate these complex, critically important matters. This approach is utilized by several state agencies and helps ensure fairness in enforcement proceedings.

“The Water Board has lost only one out of 2500 cases,” Gilmore continued. “How can anyone argue that we don’t need some checks and balances here? Isn’t everyone entitled to a fair hearing?”

In his veto message, Governor Brown said that he is “…directing the Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate the potential role for administrative law judges and provide a recommendation on improvements to the Board’s hearing process…” AB 313’s procedural structure is similar to legislation the Governor recently signed for the Board of Equalization.

Assemblyman Gray pledges to keep pushing, saying in a news release, “The bureaucrats at the State Water Board have lost any and all credibility with the communities I represent. I will continue to pursue every avenue at my disposal to promote greater public transparency and expose this out of control kangaroo court of an agency.”

“BBID recognizes and appreciates Assemblyman Gray’s leadership on an issue that impacts millions of Californians,” said BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro. “We are more committed than ever to working with our legislative partners to bring common-sense reform to California’s water rights enforcement. The stakes are high, and we will continue to fight for fairness.”

BBID Celebrates California Water Week

Byron, CA (October 10th, 2017) – In recognition of the first-ever California Water Professionals Appreciation Week, Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) is thanking its dedicated staff, whose commitment to reliable, efficient water deliveries ensures water is always flowing for our farmers.

The District produced the below video, celebrating the important role our water professionals play.

Water Professionals Appreciation Week was established by Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 80, approved by the Legislature on Sept. 13 and chaptered on Sept. 19.

Turlock Journal: Water Rights Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature

From the Turlock Journal:

A landmark passage of water rights legislation occurred over the weekend when Assemblyman Adam Gray’s Assembly Bill 313 received final approval on the last day of the legislative session – the next-to-final step toward becoming law for the bill, which requires that unbiased administrative law judges conduct water rights enforcement hearings, rather than the State Water Board.

Read more below.

Turlock Journal - Water Rights Bill Awaits Governor's Signature (9.19.17)

Modesto Bee: Law Would Bring Fairness to Water Board Disputes

On September 17th, The Modesto Bee penned an editorial calling on the public to urge Governor Brown to sign Assembly Bill 313, water rights reform legislation supported by Byron-Bethany Irrigation District.

The Bee says, “AB313 is all about one thing – fairness.”

AB 313 passed in the Senate on the final day of the Legislative session and now awaits the Governor’s signature.

9-17-17 - Law would bring fairness to water board disputes | The Modesto Bee

BBID-Backed Water Reform Bill Passes, Securing Key Victory for Water Rights Holders

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.”

Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) represents the 21st Assembly District, encompassing all of Merced County and portions of Stanislaus County.

“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.

UPDATE: BBID Crews Make Emergency Repairs After Irrigation Line Struck

Byron, CA (August 31, 2017) – Emergency repairs are underway to restore water service to Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) growers, after an irrigation line was struck early Thursday morning.

A contractor with Contra Costa County was working to modify the intersection of Camino Diablo and Byron Highway when the pipe was struck, interrupting service to several BBID growers.

BBID crews are excavating the damaged pipe, and are working to make repairs.

Service is expected to be restored by the end of the day.







UPDATE: Repairs are complete. The backfill operation will occur Friday morning, and water deliveries will resume at 9 a.m.

BBID Makes Donation to New California Water Web Initiative

Byron, CA (August 21, 2017) – On Monday, the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) announced it will present a charitable donation to help fund a new online initiative to bring California water together, the California Water Library. The new website will be a one-stop shop for thousands of water industry reports, articles, research and much more. BBID’s $5,000 donation will help with the site’s development as it nears its launch. The project is the brainchild of Chris Austin, founder of Maven’s Notebook, the widely-read water industry blog.

“The California Water Library will provide easy, organized access to information about California water, including industry reports, journal articles, scientific research, legal rulings, maps, images, and more so that scientists, policy makers, and managers working in the California’s water industry can access the information needed to make informed decisions about the state’s most precious natural resource,” Austin said. “The California Water Library fills an unmet need within the California water community by consolidating a broad set of content in one, easy-to-use website.”

“It’s an honor to support such a worthwhile project that will change the way we talk about California water,” BBID GM Rick Gilmore said. “In today’s fast-paced water world, having one place to go for the latest reports and research will make an instantaneous impact in keeping us all better-informed. This is a game changer.”

BBID GM Rick Gilmore, left, visits with Chris Austin of Maven’s Notebook, center, and her son Noah, at District Headquarters.

As part of winning the 2017 Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Excellence in Water Leadership Award, BBID was honored to award a $5,000 charitable donation to a non-profit organization of the District’s choosing that works toward the enhancement and protection of California’s water resources. The donation is furnished by the Black & Veatch Corporation.

BBID was chosen for the award in recognition of its victorious, high-stakes stand to protect some of the oldest water rights in California. According to ACWA, the prestigious annual award recognizes those who make a “remarkable and visible contribution to the enhancement, protection or development of water resources in California.”

The California Water Library ( is expected to launch in the coming weeks.