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!

Water Deliveries Begin Despite COVID-19 Pandemic

Byron, CA (March 27, 2020) – At the outset of the growing season, crews with Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) are maintaining operations. Water deliveries for our growers will continue despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and the District’s water supplies are not impacted.

The District is following all CDC recommendations to help combat the spread of the virus. BBID has instituted management practices to protect employees, all of whom serve essential functions for the District. Staff are working remotely when possible, and field crews are following social distancing guidelines.

“We are all in this together,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “While we do our part to keep our crews and communities safe from COVID-19, we are also ensuring reliable water deliveries continue to support agriculture, an essential industry.”

San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority Board Elects Officers for 2020

LOS BANOS, CA – Cannon Michael, a 6th generation California farmer was re-elected chairman of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (Authority). Michael is president of Bowles Farming Company, a family owned and operated farming company headquartered in Los Banos. Michael also serves as chair of the Henry Miller Reclamation District, is a board member with the Water Education Foundation and serves as an advisory board member of the Public Policy Institute of California.

Following his re-election, Michael said, “The Authority plays a critical role in managing a significant part of the Central Valley Project. It is a big responsibility to oversee the operations that bring project water to over a million acres of farmland, 2 million California residents and important wildlife refuges along the Pacific Flyway.

“It is very rewarding to work with a great group of directors who have the knowledge and skill to solve complex water issues. Our board is supported by a tremendous group of employees who work tirelessly to make sure water is delivered safely, reliably, and efficiently.

“It is an honor to work with our member agencies who represent urban, agricultural and environmental uses of water, and all work on innovative solutions to improve water reliability for their areas,” he said.

Elected to serve as vice-chair of the Authority is William Bordeau. Bordeau is Executive Vice President of farming operations for Harris Farms and is a board member of the Westlands Water District. Bordeau also serves as chairman of the Valley Future Foundation, the California Water Alliance, and serves on the board of the Agricultural Foundation at California State University, Fresno. He replaces former Westlands Water District Chairman Don Peracchi.

Bordeau said, “It is an honor to serve in this leadership capacity on the Authority board of directors. There are critical needs within the communities in the San Joaquin and Santa Clara valleys. Having access to reliable water supplies lies at the heart of their economies and quality of life. We take that responsibility seriously and strive to do it as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Bowles Farming Company is an organic and conventional farm growing fresh market and processing tomatoes, field crops including corn, melons, carrots and onions, alfalfa for local dairies and other commodities such as durum wheat for bread, pima cotton, pistachios and almonds. Other activities include managing wetlands and habitat restoration on the family farm.

Harris Farms is a diversified farming and hospitality company founded in 1937 and based near Coalinga, California.

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) is a member agency of the Authority.

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The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority serves 28 member public agencies, 25 of which contract with Reclamation for water supply from the CVP. These agencies deliver water to approximately 1.2 million acres of farmland, 2 million California residents, and millions of waterfowl dependent upon the nearly 200,000 acres of managed wetlands within the Pacific Flyway.

Dry Weather Leads to Low Water Allocation

Sacramento, CA (February 25, 2020) – Today, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) issued an initial water supply allocation of 15% for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID).

After a promising start to winter, dry conditions have returned across California. It has rained more in February in Death Valley than in Sacramento. The statewide snowpack is below average, and the long-range forecast indicates the lack of rain and snowfall may continue.

This image released by the National Weather Service, illustrates the dramatic difference between this year and last year’s snowpack.

“While we certainly wish Reclamation was able to issue a higher allocation, we recognize they must be responsive to our state’s current conditions,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “The looming threat of the next drought underscores the need for adaptative water management. Implementing the new biological opinions abandons an outdated, restrictive approach in favor of real-time, cutting-edge science to best meet the needs of cities, farms and the environment.”

For the first time in a decade, updated biological opinions were issued last week. Those federal rules govern water use through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Had those biological opinions been in place last year, it is estimated that the projects would have been able to save more than one-million acre-feet of additional water. That would be tremendously valuable in any year, but especially in a dry one like 2020. At a 15% allocation, growers in BBID’s CVP service area will have a baseline water supply of just 0.51 acre-feet of water per acre – down from 3.4 acre-feet per acre with a full allocation.

“This initial allocation also underlines the need for investment in our water systems, including increasing storage to save more water during wet years for use during dry ones; and more conveyance to move water more flexibly, ensuring reliability in the face of increasingly unpredictable, extreme weather patterns.”

Fire District Updates BBID Board on “Serious Challenges”

Byron, CA (February 18, 2020) – On Tuesday, the representatives from the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) addressed the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) Board of Directors, describing how understaffing challenges are impacting multiple communities, including some of those in BBID’s service area.

The ECCFPD serves a 249-square mile area encompassing Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Bethel Island, Marsh Creek, Morgan Territory, Byron, Knightsen, and surrounding rural communities. The District is an independent special district.

Today, District Fire Chief Brian Helmick explained that ECCFPD faces serious challenges: the District operates three fire stations, each staffed by three firefighters, for a total of nine firefighters at any given time – an inadequate amount of staffing for a community of 115,000 people. Chief Helmick said that ECCFPD is critically underfunded.

ECCFPD highlighted two main problems: past growth without adequate funding, and projected future growth which will place even greater demand on fire services. Chief Helmick delivered this presentation detailing the situation. He also shared the below video with BBID Directors.

“We appreciate ECCFPD taking the time to further educate our Board about this important issue impacting the region,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “We support their efforts to strengthen critical fire protection in BBID’s service area.”

ECCFPD is conducting a region-wide outreach effort, educating community members and other stakeholders about how to get involved. To learn more, please visit www.eccfpd.org.

Gov. Newsom Protects CA Water Supply, Collaborative Solutions with SB 1 Veto

Byron, CA (September 28, 2019) – Responding to widespread input from a statewide coalition of business leaders and water agencies, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday vetoed Senate Bill 1 (Atkins). The Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) and dozens of other organizations voiced strong opposition to the bill, which threatened to hurt California’s water supply reliability and derail critically important collaboration aimed at finding solutions to fix the Delta.

“Byron-Bethany Irrigation District commends Gov. Newsom for his decisive action in sending SB 1 back to the Legislature,” said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore. “We appreciate his ongoing willingness to engage with California’s water community in search of workable solutions to protect both our environment, and the reliability and resiliency of our water supplies. Unfortunately, SB 1 as written would have done more harm than good. Thankfully, Gov. Newsom recognized that.”

The bill, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), passed in the waning hours of the legislative session. In his veto message, Gov. Newsom said that he “disagree[d] with the efficacy and necessity of SB 1.”

In more than 100 meetings with legislators on both sides of the aisle, BBID argued that the bill would have created an impassable roadblock to continuing the Voluntary Settlement Agreement (VSA) process, one of the most consequential, collaborative efforts in the history of California water. The VSAs would create a foundational framework for increased water management flexibility, habitat restoration, and protect endangered fish populations. Moreover, cutting-edge science developed over the past decade with millions of dollars of investments would have been discarded under SB 1.

“In Gov. Newsom’s directive to create a Water Resilience Portfolio, he called for creative solutions to meet our unprecedented water challenges,” added Gilmore. “Locking us into out-of-date science contradicts that call, and severely hampers our ability to meet the growing, evolving water needs of the state. We are grateful for his recognition of SB 1’s shortcomings in this regard.”

“Moreover, we are incredibly thankful for the help of a bi-partisan coalition of state and federal lawmakers, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who spoke out about the negative impacts of the bill,” Gilmore continued. “Now, we must continue to seek common ground for environmental stewardship, while using our best available science to meet the needs of the future.”

Latest on SB 1: Water Coalition Urges “No” Vote

A broad coalition of business organizations and water agencies, including the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID), is urging lawmakers to vote “no” on Senate Bill 1.

The bill as currently written would derail collaborative efforts to restore the Delta and improve water deliveries. It would also cause litigation by applying the California Endangered Species Act to the federally-managed Central Valley Project, an unsettled area of law.

The full letter is below.

SB 1 Assembly Floor Alert 091119

Bipartisan Lawmaker Coalition to Gov. Newsom: Amend SB 1, Protect Voluntary Agreements

A bipartisan coalition of U.S. lawmakers, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Congressmen Jim Costa, John Garamendi, Josh Harder, and TJ Cox, are calling for amendments to SB 1 (Atkins).

The below letter was delivered today to Governor Newsom, urging him to “insist upon” amendments to the legislation to “preserve the viability of potential voluntary agreements over proposed outflow requirements for the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers.”

Opponents of the bill, including the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID), believe that SB 1 goes far beyond its stated intent to insulate California from potential Trump Administration efforts to roll back existing federal protections for air, water, and endangered species. BBID has joined a statewide coalition of water organizations and business leaders asking for critical amendments to the bill, to protect water supply reliability for millions of Californians.

Read the full letter below.

SB 1 Opposition Coalition Seeks Amendments to Protect Californians’ Water Supply

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) joined a broad, statewide coalition of water agencies, business leaders and other concerned organizations opposing Senate Bill 1. BBID has strongly opposed the bill as written, contending it threatens water supply reliability for millions of Californians. Read the full letter to the bill’s author below.

SB 1 Coalition Letter to Atkins 090419 Final