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!

BBID Supports Historic Agreement Between U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources

FRESNO, CA – Today the United States Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources announced a series of agreements to resolve water conflicts that have vexed the State for decades and to reaffirm the collaborative partnership between the Federal and State governments to develop long-term solutions to California’s major water problems.

The Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) joined other water agencies in supporting the historic agreement.

Read the full release below.

VA Joint Contractor Press Release_FINAL

VIDEO: Tie Vote in District Election Resolved by the Roll of a Die

Martinez, CA (December 7, 2018) – For the first time in the 100-plus year history of the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID), a District election was decided by the roll of a die. Larry Enos, Jr., was reelected as BBID Division I Director following a highly unusual election tiebreaking procedure.

BBID Division I Director Larry Enos Jr., left, and challenger Pete Petrovich, right (seated), moments before the election tiebreaker.

The vote between Enos, Jr. and his challenge Pete Petrovich was tied, 51-51, after all of the votes were counted following last month’s election. On Friday, the two candidates joined elections officials at the Contra Costa County Elections Department in Martinez. Enos, Jr. and Petrovich were directed to roll a 20-sided die three times, with the highest combined score as the winner. Enos, Jr. won by a count of 51-45, giving him the deciding margin for his reelection.

The 20-sided die used to break the election tie.

The roll of the die was performed pursuant to California Elections Code 15651, which states in part: If at any election … two or more persons receive an equal and the highest number of votes for an office to be voted for in more than one county, the Secretary of State shall forthwith summon the candidates who have received the tie votes … [and] shall at that time and place determine the tie by lot [lottery].”

The final tally of the election tiebreaker, giving the victory to Larry Enos, Jr.

Elections officials said they could not recall another time in the history of Contra Costa County that a tied special district election had been resolved with the roll of a die.

Enos, Jr. has served on the BBID board for the last seven years, representing Division I in Contra Costa County. As a result of today’s tiebreaker, he will serve another four-year term.

Meanwhile, in BBID Division III in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, BBID Board Vice President Tim Maggiore ran unopposed and was reelected for another four-year term.

SLDMWA Announces New Executive Director

Los Banos, CA (December 6, 2018) – The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (Water Authority) Board of Directors voted today to approve an employment contract for Federico Barajas to fill the position of its Executive Director, replacing Assistant Executive Director Frances Mizuno who has been serving on an interim basis since June 1.

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

Read the full release below!

San Luis Release 12.6.18

BBID, Partnering Agencies Act to Keep Groundwater Management Local

Sacramento, CA (December 3, 2018) – In a significant step toward maintaining local control over sustainable groundwater management in East Contra Costa County, the State tentatively approved a boundary modification request of the Tracy Subbasin. The request was made on behalf of eight local water providers, including the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID). Late last week, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) issued a draft decision to approve it.

“Groundwater management will help shape the future of our region,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “These decisions are best made by those on the local level, on behalf of water users in East Contra Costa County.”

In 2014, Governor Brown signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). It requires local agencies to cooperatively form long-term plans for groundwater management. However, the way the law was initially written could potentially allow water users in Tracy and San Joaquin County to have undue influence over how groundwater is managed in East Contra Costa County. Local agencies, including BBID, sought to have the Tracy Subbasin subdivided along the Contra Costa and San Joaquin County line.

The City of Brentwood filed the boundary modification request on behalf of the City of Antioch, BBID, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa Water District, Diablo Water District, Discovery Bay Community Services District, and East Contra Costa Irrigation District. The coalition of agencies also distributed a letter to water users, soliciting input and explaining the reasoning behind the request.

Once the state’s draft approval decision becomes final, BBID’s service area will overlap two subbasins: the new East Contra Costa County Subbasin, and the remaining Tracy Subbasin. There, BBID is partnering with the West Side Irrigation District, Banta Carbona Irrigation District, the City of Tracy, and the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority to develop a plan for sustainable groundwater management.

BBID continues to work to meet upcoming SGMA requirements, including the development of a groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) in basins and subbasins classified by the state as medium or high priority. GSPs must be completed by January of 2022. The District previously acted to become a groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) following a public hearing in March 2017, ensuring the District will play an active role in groundwater management in its service area the surrounding region. Click here to learn more about SGMA.

Governor Brown Signs BBID-Backed Water Rights Fairness Bill

Sacramento, CA (September 24, 2018) – Landmark legislation crafted by Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) to restore Constitutional due process and restore fairness for California’s water right holders is now law. Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 747, a bill introduced by Assemblymember Anna Caballero (D-Salinas). AB 747 passed the Legislature by an overwhelming bipartisan majority.

“The Governor’s action cements a significant step toward improving the transparency, objectivity and accountability for California’s water rights administration and enforcement,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “This law will go a long way toward implementing the necessary checks and balances, as well as restoring the water community’s faith in the process.”

AB 747 establishes a fairer process for water right holders who for many years felt they had little choice but to settle enforcement actions brought against them by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). The SWRCB currently acts as both prosecutor and judge in enforcement actions initiated by the Board. This bill creates an Administrative Hearings Office within the SWRCB. Expert attorneys will serve as hearing officers to hear and adjudicate complex, critically important water rights matters. A similar structure is already in effect for many state agencies.

This legislation is the response to AB 313, which was introduced last session by Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced), and ultimately vetoed by Governor Brown. Since then, BBID and other local government districts proactively engaged the Brown Administration to find common ground.  AB 747 is the result of that effort.

“On behalf of the BBID Board of Directors, I would like to thank Assemblymember Caballero and her staff for all of their hard work, and recognize Assemblymember Gray’s important contributions at the outset of this effort,” said BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro. “We must also thank Governor Brown and his Administration for their recognition of this critical issue impacting communities statewide, and for their collaboration to reach a solution.”

The new hearing unit will take effect in the coming months.