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!

State Water Board Chair Responds to BBID Letter on Historic Water Rights Case

On Friday, State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) Chair Felicia Marcus issued a formal response to a letter sent last month by Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID).

As part of the District’s efforts to fairly and efficiently resolve landmark water rights litigation, BBID issued the letter, which references ongoing legal action that BBID and other petitioners are engaged in against the SWRCB in Santa Clara County.

Read more about the case here  and here.

The SWRCB’s response is below.

8.10.18 FM Response Ltr BBID

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

BBID Issues Letter to State Water Board on Landmark Water Rights Case

In a concerted effort to fairly and efficiently resolve a landmark water rights case, the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) on Tuesday issued the below letter to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).

The letter references ongoing litigation that BBID and other petitioners are engaged in against the SWRCB in Santa Clara County.

Read more about the case here. More coverage is here. The full letter is below.

SWRCB_Marcus_072418

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.