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

Los Vaqueros Reservoir Expansion Project Gets $459 Million from Prop. 1

On July 24, the California Water Commission announced that $459 million of Proposition 1 funding will be slated for expanding Los Vaqueros Reservoir in eastern Contra Costa County near Brentwood. With 15 agencies, including Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) interested in potentially being part of the expansion, Los Vaqueros would expand in size and operations with broader reaching benefits.

Read the full news release below.

News Release - Prop 1 Results

District Honored with Historical Declaration for Protecting Water Rights

Byron, CA (May 30, 2018) – On Wednesday, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) officially recognized the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) for its commitment to protect the oldest water rights in California. Rep. Denham presented District leaders with a plaque commemorating a passage the Congressman read into the Congressional Record, the official historical record of the United States Congress.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) presents the BBID Board of Directors with a plaque commemorating remarks read into the Congressional Record.

In those remarks read on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Denham congratulated BBID for receiving the Association of California Water Agencies’ 2017 Excellence in Water Leadership Award. He also recognized the District’s “bold actions in defendingthe water rights of the farming communities within their area of service.”

In 2016, BBID prevailed before the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), which sought enforcement against the District for allegedly diverting water when none was available under its priority of right, and alleging a potential $5 million fine. BBID’s legal team argued that careful analysis of the prosecution team’s evidence proved the SWRCB was ultimately incorrect. The SWRCB eventually dismissed the complaint, citing the prosecution team’s failure to prove its case.

“There are not too many irrigation districts that are willing to take on the state, and certainly the few that did have not won,” Rep. Denham said at Wednesday’s ceremony. “The fact that you took them on – and the fact that you won – not only made sure that our water rights are held dear to us, but I think it tells the State we’re a force to be reckoned with. I was very proud to tell my colleagues in Washington, D.C. about the good work you’re doing here, and that you took the fight on and won the fight.”

Rep. Denham was joined by BBID’s Board of Directors and District staff. Several of the District’s growers were in the audience, as well.

“We are humbled,” said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore. “To receive formal recognition from Congressman Denham, as well as having our efforts read into the Congressional Record, is a tremendous honor.”

From left, BBID Director Jeff Brown, Rep. Jeff Denham, BBID GM Rick Gilmore, BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro, and BBID Directors Larry Enos, Jr., and Chuck Tuso pose with the Congressional Record plaque.

Watch a video of the ceremony:

Rep. Denham’s full remarks read into the Congressional Record are below:

Mr. DENHAM: “Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize and congratulate Byron-Bethany Irrigation District for being awarded the Association of California Water Agencies’ 2017 Excellence in Water Leaders Award. Byron-Bethany Irrigation District serves crucial farming communities in California’s Central Valley including the city of Tracy, which is located in my district. The water they distribute allows their customers to cultivate successful farmland that both promotes a successful economy and feeds the world.

This award is in recognition of BBID’s bold actions in defending the water rights of the farming communities within their area of service. In the face of the California drought, the State Water Resources Control Board issued curtailment orders for the local community that would drastically affect the crucial farmland that BBID serves.

The District General Manager, Rick Gilmore, and the district’s seven-member Board of Directors launched an effective legal effort to protect the water rights of local farming communities. They argued that the state’s analysis of available water was inaccurate. The state’s dismissal of the case against BBID in 2016 was a victory for small farming districts, and cemented the water rights that serve as a foundation for BBID’s community.

The Excellence in Water Leaders Award is presented annually by the Association of California Water Agencies to an individual or group that has made a visible contribution to California water. ACWA is a statewide association of public agencies and their members are responsible for about 90% of water delivered in California. ACWA’s recognition of Byron-Bethany Irrigation District’s impact on the water rights for small farming communities is an immense honor. Mr. Speaker, please join me in honoring and commending the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District for receiving this impressive award and for their exuberance and dedication to our local farming communities within California’s Central Valley.”

Wildfires Char Hundreds of Acres, Threaten BBID-Operated Facilities (VIDEO)

Byron, CA (May 30, 2018) – Fueled by whipping winds, a series of fast-moving wildfires swept across Byron-Bethany Irrigation District’s (BBID) service area Wednesday afternoon. Fire officials say seven separate fires charred more than 500 acres. Cal Fire officials said the Grant Fire was 35% contained as of 9 p.m. Wednesday.

BBID crews shot the below video as first responders arrived. Overhead, a Cal Fire helicopter performed water drops.

At one point, the fire raced toward the facilities of the BBID-operated Byron Sanitary District, but flame retardant dropped from above and fire crews on the ground kept the flames at bay.

Security camera footage shows the smoke enveloping the area, and pictures snapped by BBID personnel show the aftermath of the close call.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Byron Highway, a main thoroughfare in the area, was closed for several hours. The cause of the fires is unknown. No injuries were reported.

Water Allocation Remains Low, Despite Full Reservoirs

Byron, CA (May 28, 2018) – Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) General Manager Rick Gilmore issued the following statement, after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) crept up the water supply allocation – from 40% to 45% – for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including BBID:

“The Bureau’s latest allocation increase amounts to a drop in the bucket for BBID’s farmers, who should have been able to count on a much more robust supply in a year like this. The statewide average for CVP reservoirs is more than 100 percent of normal, just one year removed from the wettest year on record.

The still-low allocation – which began at 20% and has gradually increased to 45% – shows that the greatest challenge to reliable CVP water deliveries is our regulatory climate, not Mother Nature.

We join our partners at the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA) in calling for change. Overly conservative and restrictive CVP operations create unnecessary hardships not just for farmers, but for the entire state. If the federal government can’t supply requisite deliveries even with abundant supplies, then clearly, the system is broken.”

–Rick Gilmore, GM