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!

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

Governor Brown Vetoes BBID-Backed Water Rights Fairness Bill

Sacramento, CA (October 16, 2017) – Late Sunday night, Governor Brown vetoed Assembly Bill 313, a bill introduced by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) to promote fairness and due process in California’s water rights enforcement. Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) provided technical support in crafting the bill.

“The deck is stacked against the state’s water rights holders, and the State Water Resources Control Board holds all the cards,” said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore. “They act as the judge, jury and prosecutor of the water world with immense impunity and no accountability. When the scales are tipped, water users lose faith in the process. The Governor could have restored some balance to this badly-broken system by signing AB 313.”

The bill received strong bipartisan support from the beginning and passed multiple policy committees, including the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill was amended to include feedback from several water community stakeholders and environmental NGOs, and a broad coalition of water agencies and organizations across the state urged the Governor to sign it.

“Rarely have we seen such unity in the water community,” Gilmore said. “Clearly, the legislature agreed with overwhelming votes in both Houses that AB 313 is good public policy, and the Water Board’s decision-making process is inappropriate.”

The State Water Board currently writes the rules, initiates enforcement actions, then decides in its own court whether the alleged violator is guilty – with the Board’s own staff acting as prosecutors and Board members acting as the judge. AB 313 was a solution to the problem. The bill called for administrative law judges in a newly-created Water Rights Division to preside over water rights hearings, ensuring an objective, expert third party would adjudicate these complex, critically important matters. This approach is utilized by several state agencies and helps ensure fairness in enforcement proceedings.

“The Water Board has lost only one out of 2500 cases,” Gilmore continued. “How can anyone argue that we don’t need some checks and balances here? Isn’t everyone entitled to a fair hearing?”

In his veto message, Governor Brown said that he is “…directing the Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate the potential role for administrative law judges and provide a recommendation on improvements to the Board’s hearing process…” AB 313’s procedural structure is similar to legislation the Governor recently signed for the Board of Equalization.

Assemblyman Gray pledges to keep pushing, saying in a news release, “The bureaucrats at the State Water Board have lost any and all credibility with the communities I represent. I will continue to pursue every avenue at my disposal to promote greater public transparency and expose this out of control kangaroo court of an agency.”

“BBID recognizes and appreciates Assemblyman Gray’s leadership on an issue that impacts millions of Californians,” said BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro. “We are more committed than ever to working with our legislative partners to bring common-sense reform to California’s water rights enforcement. The stakes are high, and we will continue to fight for fairness.”

BBID Celebrates California Water Week

Byron, CA (October 10th, 2017) – In recognition of the first-ever California Water Professionals Appreciation Week, Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) is thanking its dedicated staff, whose commitment to reliable, efficient water deliveries ensures water is always flowing for our farmers.

The District produced the below video, celebrating the important role our water professionals play.

Water Professionals Appreciation Week was established by Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 80, approved by the Legislature on Sept. 13 and chaptered on Sept. 19.

California Water Library Launches

WATCH: Byron-Bethany Irrigation District produced a video highlighting the features of the California Water Library, a new initiative from Chris Austin, founder of Maven’s Notebook – one of the most widely-read water industry blogs. BBID previously made a donation to help the new site launch.

“The California Water Library provides easy, organized access to information about California water, including industry reports, journal articles, scientific research, legal rulings, maps, images, and more so that scientists, policy makers, and managers working in the California’s water industry can access the information needed to make informed decisions about the state’s most precious natural resource,” Austin said. “The California Water Library fills an unmet need within the California water community by consolidating a broad set of content in one, easy-to-use website.”