State Water Board Hearing: A High-Stakes Stand
On March 21st, 2016, Byron-Bethany Irrigation District went before the State Water Board to fight for its water rights. The District faced a proposed $5 million dollar fine for alleged unauthorized diversions of water during the drought; in reality, the District was lawfully excising its pre-1914 water rights. The following videos document the hearing from start to finish, culminating in the Board dismissing the case.
State Water Board Hearing: Dan Kelly Opening Statement
At the outset of the District’s hearing at the State Water Board, then-BBID general counsel Dan Kelly delivered a fiery opening statement pointing out serious flaws in the State’s case. It set the stage for the Board’s ultimate decision to dismiss the case months later.
State Water Board Hearing: Public Comment
Throughout the hearing, members of the agricultural community we serve stood in solidarity with the District. Not only did members of the public pack the hearing room in Sacramento, many spoke powerfully in support of BBID. The District also received support from its partners in the agricultural community.
Kelley Geyer, the District’s Director of Administration, offered perspective on the importance of protecting senior water rights, and the unbreakable bond between the water BBID provides, the farmers who rely upon a stable supply, and the California farm-fresh fruits and vegetables we all enjoy as a result.
Dennis Lopez, Farmer
Western Growers Assoc.
Westlands Water Dist.
Mario Arnaudo, Farmer
Steve Nicolauo, Attorney
Kelley Geyer, BBID
State Water Board Hearing: The Case
After State Water Board prosecutors presented their case, BBID’s legal team cross-examined key witnesses, revealing significant discrepancies in the case.
The District argued the case should be thrown out, on the grounds State Water Board prosecutors failed to prove their case. The State Water Board Hearing Team suspended the proceedings to hear arguments on the motion.
Months later, the Board made it official, dismissing the case. It was the first time a water rights holder had ever prevailed over the State Water Board.