Byron-Bethany Irrigation District Supports International Effort for California Water Solutions

Byron, CA (June 28, 2016) – Leaders with Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) announced Tuesday they are partnering with water experts in California and Israel, in an international effort to find new ways to save water in California and abroad. BBID will attend, and sponsor, the Israel California Water (ICWater) Conference, a joint effort between the two water sectors to collaborate and become more sustainable.

Event organizers say the ICWater Conference will center around smart water technology and practical business, regulatory and financing solutions to help solve California’s water crisis. In addition to featuring business leaders, researchers, policy leaders, technology experts from California, the conference will also include representatives from more than twenty Israeli water technology firms.

“It’s no secret California’s water community faces considerable challenges in the months and years ahead,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “We need practical solutions. BBID welcomes fruitful global partnerships like this one, that encourage collaboration and provide new ways of thinking about solving our age-old water issues here in California.”

The event is part of an ongoing collaboration between California and Israel, born from a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by Governor Brown and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2014. It strengthens a partnership that already has seen California companies partner with Israeli firms for smart water research and implementation in multiple facets of the water world.

The ICWater Conference was held on Wednesday, June 29th, at the Ritz Carlton Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles, and on June 30th, 2016 at the Leichtag Commons in San Diego.

WATCH: Videos from the conference!

State Water Board Curtailment Notice Threatens Thousands of Acres, Jobs

Byron, CA (June 7, 2016) – Byron-Bethany Irrigation District General Manager Rick Gilmore issued the following statement in response to the State Water Resources Control Board’s Curtailment Notice of June 12, 2015:

“In addition to the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) suffering back to back years of “zero water supply” from the Bureau of Reclamation for BBID’s Central Valley Project Service Area, the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) curtailment notice received today will have a devastating impact on the remaining customers of BBID, which holds water rights dating from over a century ago. As a steward of our great state’s resources, we understand the seriousness of the historic drought that is affecting California. However, this curtailment order will be extremely destructive to the customers we serve including nearly 160 farmers, 15,000 residents of the Mountain House community, and the energy projects in the area, all of which are essential to our community’s vitality.

The additional loss of water will destroy thousands of acres of crops and eliminate thousands of jobs, which will likely result in the irreparable loss of vibrant communities. Without water, our area will lose nearly 10,000 acres of almonds, cherries, sweet corn, grapes, tomatoes, walnuts, alfalfa and more. By this action, the SWRCB is taking away our ability to provide our customers with a safe, reliable water supply – a resource essential to life; particularly to the agricultural communities we serve.

In order to protect our customers and the crops in our service area, we will pursue relief from the SWRCB’s curtailment notice in Superior Court. We will vigorously defend our rights and will insist on due process and full consideration of factors that have not been adequately taken into account. We are optimistic that the Court will uphold our Constitutional rights, and the restriction on our diversion of water will be lifted before it has had a shattering impact on the communities we serve.”

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District Commends State Water Board For Dismissing Case

Byron, CA (June 7, 2016) – Byron-Bethany Irrigation District General Manager Rick Gilmore issued the following statement following the State Water Resources Control Board’s vote to dismiss its administrative civil liability complaint against the District:

“Byron Bethany Irrigation District commends the State Water Resources Control Board’s decision to dismiss its enforcement action against the District and the farmers and ranchers it serves. The State Board’s decision displayed commendable objectivity in its comprehensive analysis of the matter. While this was not an easy process for any of the parties involved, the Board’s decision represents an important step toward a future of collaboration and cooperation in the management of the state’s water issues.”

“Much work remains to be done to bring clarity to the extent and nature of the Board’s authority over California’s oldest water rights and water use. We hear the Board’s call for stakeholder engagement, and look forward to working together with the SWRCB in a collaborative process to improve water availability analysis and enhance the state’s future water reliability.”

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District Issues Statement Regarding Draft Ruling to Dismiss Complaint

Statement from Byron-Bethany Irrigation District regarding today’s dismissal of the ACL complaint:

“We are pleased the State Water Resources Control Board finally did the right thing in dismissing the enforcement action brought against Byron-Bethany Irrigation District last July. This day is a long time coming. We maintained all along that we were legally exercising our pre-1914 senior water right. We are thankful the State Water Board’s Hearing Team found multiple, significant discrepancies in the case against us. We will review this ruling in greater detail with our legal team and look forward to putting this chapter behind us.”

Detachment, Legal Battle Spur Water Rate Increase

Byron, CA (May 17, 2016) – For the first time in more than two decades, Byron-Bethany Irrigation District’s (BBID) Board of Directors voted Tuesday to authorize an increase to the District’s uniform, agricultural water rate. The move comes in the midst of BBID’s ongoing legal battle with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to protect BBID’s senior water rights, at the same time the District stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in property tax revenue.

“We know it will be difficult for our farmers and ranchers to shoulder this additional burden,” said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore. “BBID has been able to keep the same, low rate in place for more than 20 years, but recent events made today’s action unavoidable to protect the financial stability of the District.”

Earlier this year, Contra Costa County moved to pursue detachment of portions of the town of Discovery Bay from the BBID service area, an area that generated $685,000 in annual property revenue. BBID expects to lose half of that revenue in 2016, and the full amount by 2017. Meanwhile, the SWRCB’s attack on BBID’s water rights has resulted in an expensive – but critically necessary – legal fight to protect the pre-1914 water rights that provide the foundation for the District’s reliable water deliveries its growers depend on.

Tuesday’s vote at the end of a public hearing concluded the Proposition 218 process that began with a cost of service study by an independent rate consultant. Based on the consultant’s recommendations, the Board authorized a 2016 agricultural water rate no higher than $102 per acre foot, but ultimately decided to set this year’s rate at $65 per acre foot, opting to use financial reserves to soften the blow to BBID’s growers. The previous rate was $20 per acre foot. The change will take effect on June 1st.

In other business, the Board announced general counsel Dan Kelly is moving on at the end of this month, leaving private practice to join a public agency. Kelly was presented with a framed resolution recognizing his dedicated service the past several years.

“Dan’s tireless passion and unparalleled legal expertise will be missed,” said BBID Board of Directors President Russell Kagehiro. “Right now, we are fighting to protect our water rights – fighting for the very future of our District, and Dan has led that charge. For that, we will be forever grateful.”