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!

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

SB 1: A Threat to California’s Water Supply

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) is joining a broad-based coalition of water agencies, business leaders and concerned constituents in calling for lawmakers to fix Senate Bill 1 (Atkins). SB 1 threatens water supply reliability for millions of Californians and threatens to derail the Voluntary Settlement Agreements in the Delta. Read more below!

BBID_SB1_UPDATED

BBID Seeks to Recover Fees from State in Landmark Water Rights Case

San Jose, CA (August 5, 2019) –On Monday, Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) filed a motion in Santa Clara County Superior Court, seeking to recover nearly $2 million in attorneys’ fees from the State of California.

The motion is directly related to an enforcement action brought by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) against BBID shortly after BBID sued the SWRCB over unlawful curtailment notices issued by the SWRCB to more than a thousand pre-1914 water rights holders, including BBID. Over BBID’s objection, the Santa Clara Court stayed BBID’s lawsuit pending completion of the administrative hearing of the SWRCB’s enforcement action.

The SWRCB’s enforcement action sought enforcement of the curtailment notices against BBID for diverting water when allegedly none was available under its priority of right, and seeking a $5 million fine. On the third day of the administrative hearing before the SWRCB, BBID’s legal team successfully argued that the evidence submitted by the SWRCB litigation team failed to meet its burden of proof, and the SWRCB hearing officer granted BBID’s motion for judgment dismissing the enforcement action.

After the dismissal of the enforcement action, BBID resumed its related lawsuit, and on April 3, 2018, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Brian Walsh issued his Statement of Decision holding, among other things, that the SWRCB lacks jurisdiction to enforce priority of rights between pre-1914 and riparian water rights. The Court’s ruling solidifies the oldest water rights in California. Judge Walsh also held that the curtailment notices violated BBID’s due process rights because they commanded immediate curtailment of water rights and threatened large fines without providing water right holders an opportunity to challenge the findings upon which the notices were based.

BBID now seeks recovery of the significant legal fees and costs incurred defending its senior water rights, and those held by the state’s other pre-1914 and riparian water right holders. The hearing of BBID’s motion is set for October 18th.

Read the full court documents below.