Byron-Bethany Irrigation District Honored with Statewide Water Award

Monterey, CA (May 10, 2017) – In recognition of its victorious, high-stakes stand to protect some of the oldest water rights in California, Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) was honored Wednesday with the 2017 ACWA (Association of California Water Agencies) Excellence in Water Leadership Award.

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 award was presented at ACWA’s Spring Conference in Monterey to BBID GM Rick Gilmore, and BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro, who accepted on behalf of BBID’s Board of Directors.

“On behalf of the entire District, we extend our deepest appreciation to ACWA for this incredible recognition,” Kagehiro said. “Our fight was not only for BBID, but for districts statewide, whose water rights provide the backbone of the communities we collectively serve.”

“Providing reliable water is the essence of our mission,” Gilmore said. “Though it wasn’t easy, we had no choice but to take the lead, navigating extreme regulatory uncertainty to defend the water supply that is rightfully ours.”

ACWA President Kathleen Tiegs, left, poses with BBID GM Rick Gilmore, center, and BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro.

Amidst harsh drought in 2015, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) issued unprecedented curtailments, and subsequently accused BBID of taking water when none was available, threatening a $5-plus million fine. BBID’s legal team fought back to preserve the District’s pre-1914 water rights, disproving the state’s arguments. The SWRCB eventually dismissed the case, securing a victory that would resonate throughout California’s water community.

“Byron-Bethany’s district staff and elected officials understood what was at stake for their community,” said ACWA President Kathleen Tiegs. “Their foresight, leadership and ability to build consensus in the face of extreme challenge kept water flowing for the residents, farmers, agricultural workers and families in their multi-county service area.”

BBID was nominated for the Excellence in Water Leadership Award by the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA), a collective of water agencies representing more than 2 million acres of 29 federal and exchange water service contractors.

“California is blessed to have thousands of dedicated water leaders who make our incredible water management system work so well,” said SLDMWA Executive Director Jason Peltier. “When leadership shines through most clearly is in a time of crisis, and Rick and his Board earned this award by leaning forward into the regulatory machine that now controls so much of our system. It took guts and commitment to secure justice. They did it.”

The 2017 Excellence in Water Leadership Award.

Demonstrating BBID’s deep connection to its community, numerous Letters of support were submitted on BBID’s behalf, including one from Gay Costa of the Mountain House School District.

“Mr. Gilmore, the BBID Board, and their staff went into the hearings with the weight of our farmers, ranchers’ community and this school on their shoulders,” Costa wrote. “The students witnessed a pillar of their community stand up for their right to carry on their family business and continue a culture deep in tradition and pride.”

Farmer Mike Sandhu also wrote in support of the District, “Without BBID’s stand, growers could have been stripped of our livelihoods and driven off our land that, for some of us, goes back generations. Their commitment secured our children’s futures. We have the water we need today – and tomorrow – thanks to BBID.”

Another letter was submitted by former BBID counsel and current in-house counsel for Placer County Water Agency, Dan Kelly.

“While, in certain circles, BBID’s decision to challenge the SWRCB’s curtailments was not popular – it was the courageous thing to do,” Kelly wrote. “Leaders are not people who simply fall in line. Leaders are people who make hard decisions; often unpopular, to achieve the right and just result. Rick Gilmore and the BBID Board of Directors did just that.”

As part of the Excellence in Water Leadership Award, BBID will be privileged to present a $5,000 charitable donation to a non-profit organization of their choosing that works toward the enhancement and protection of California’s water resources.

WATCH: Click below to see BBID accept the 2017 ACWA Excellence in Water Leadership Award!

SLDMWA to Withdraw from SFCWA, Improve Delta Science Investment

Los Banos, CA (February 16, 2018) – The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (Water Authority) announced it will withdraw from from the State and Federal Contractors Water Agency (SFCWA). A notice of intent letter was formally submitted to SFCWA on Tuesday.

Byron-Bethany Irrigation Distirct (BBID) is a member of the Water Authority, which represents more than 2-million acres of 29 federal and exchange water service contractors within the western San Joaquin Valley, San Benito and Santa Clara counties.

Read more in the news release below.

Release re SLDMWA Withdraws from SFCWA

BBID featured in Tracy Press article: Irrigation Starts Early in Dry Local Orchards

From the Tracy Press (Feb. 9th): The latest recorded rainfall in Tracy was on Jan. 26, and it wasn’t much — two-hundredths of an inch — and there’s no rainfall expected in the next two weeks at least. More and more people are beginning to say, “It’s feeling a lot like a drought — again.”

Evidence of that is unfolding in rural Tracy farmland, where irrigation water is starting to flow out of canals and into fields — a month earlier than “normal.”

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Byron-Bethany Irrigation District is referenced in the article. Read more below!

2.9.18 Irrigation starts early in dry local orchards - Golden State Newspapers: Tracy Press News

DWR Director Returns to Sonoma County Water Agency

Sacramento, CA (January 10, 2018) – A familiar face is rejoining the Sonoma County Water Agency. Grant Davis will return as general manager, the agency’s Board of Directors announced Wednesday. Davis returns after his appointment nearly five months ago by Governor Brown to serve as the Director of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).

DWR announced Karla Nemeth was appointed as the new DWR Director. Nemeth was previously the deputy secretary and senior advisor for water policy at the California Natural Resources Agency.

Full news releases are below.

THIS JUST IN ... Sonoma County Water Agency Board of Directors Appoints Grant Davis as General Manager ~ MAVEN'S NOTEBOOK | Water news


THIS JUST IN ... New Director Appointed at Department of Water Resources, Executive Team Restructured to Strengthen Dam and Flood Safety, Climate Resiliency ~ MAVEN'S NOTEBOOK | Water news

Assemblyman Gray to Governor: Missed Deadline to Address Water Rights Fairness “Sends Wrong Message”

Sacramento, CA (January 8, 2018) – Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) is calling on Governor Brown to explain why a state agency missed a critical deadline to make recommendations for improved water rights fairness. In a letter delivered to Governor Brown, Asm. Gray said, “To a community that already feels attacked and abandoned, [the missed deadline] sends entirely the wrong message.”

Asm. Gray authored Assembly Bill 313, bipartisan legislation vetoed last session by Governor Brown. Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) provided technical support in crafting the bill.

AB 313 would have ensured that neutral, administrative law judges presided over all water rights matters – providing basic fairness and due process currently lacking for California’s water rights holders. The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) writes regulations, initiates enforcement actions, and conducts hearings in its own courtroom with its staff members as acting as the prosecution team and its board members acting as the judge.

Assemblymember Adam Gray represents the 21st Assembly District.

In the Governor’s veto message, he directed the California Environmental Protection Agency to make recommendations to improve the State Water Resources Control Board’s hearing process. However, a January 1st deadline to provide those recommendations has passed. Assemblyman Gray is now requesting to meet with the Governor and CalEPA to “…understand why CalEPA has failed to meet the deadline and discuss the ramifications this disregard has for my district and our ability to engage in settlement discussions with the administration.”

The full letter is below.

1.8.18 AB 313 Governor Veto Letter

Final Joint Legal Brief Filed in Landmark Water Rights Case

A milestone case that will impact the oldest water rights in California took a significant step forward Thursday. In Santa Clara County Superior Court, the final joint brief on was filed on behalf of Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID), West Side Irrigation District (WSID) and other water agencies.

The case will decide the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) claim that during drought, it can curtail riparian and pre-1914 water rights holders under Water Code Section 1052 based on priority of rights. BBID’s legal team argues that the SWRCB does not have such authority. The outcome of this legal battle has far-reaching ramifications for every riparian and pre-1914 water rights holder in the State.

The full brief is posted below.

11-9-17 FINAL BBID WSID Reply Brief to SWRCB Opposition to the Merits

Local Irrigation Districts Attend BBID-Hosted Training Event

Byron, CA (October 31, 2017) – On Tuesday morning, staff from area irrigation districts received cutting-edge safety and professional development training at Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID).

A representative from the Association of California Water Agencies Joint Powers Insurance Authority (ACWA/JPIA) – which provides insurance coverage and a suite of related services to its member agencies – delivered a full day’s worth of training.


Staff members from BBID were joined by West Side Irrigation District (WSID) and Banta Carbona Irrigation District (BCID). Topics included trenching and excavation, field ergonomics, and respiratory protection. The training session, led by ACWA/JPIA’s Scott Wood, was focused around risk management and professional development, featuring multiple exercises and open dialogue.

“BBID consistently seeks opportunities to assist our employees, as well as staff from nearby agencies, with the latest and greatest in risk management training and professional development,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “We want to do everything we can to ensure the safety of our crews in the field. The tools and resources provided by ACWA/JPIA are an important part of that.”

Recently, ACWA/JPIA and multiple local agencies attended BBID’s first-ever Health, Wellness & Safety Day.

Western Growers: Brown Vetoes WG-Supported Fair Water Rights Hearing Bill

From Western Growers: “In the final hours to sign or veto bills sent to him by the California Legislature, Governor Brown vetoed AB 313 by Assemblymember Adam Gray, a Western Growers-supported bill that would have inserted much-needed balance into the state’s water rights enforcement activities…”

Read More!

Brown Vetoes WG-Supported Fair Water Rights Hearing Bill | Western Growers