Byron-Bethany Irrigation District Commends Hertzberg Senate Committee Appointment

Byron, CA (December 22, 2016) – Byron-Bethany Irrigation District General Manager Rick Gilmore issued the following statement:

“Byron-Bethany Irrigation District applauds the selection of Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles) as chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. Senator Hertzberg has spent more than 40 years studying the complexities of California water policy, and is an ideal candidate to help the state’s water community seek solutions in a great time of change.”

“We collectively face unprecedented challenges, from the sixth year of our historic drought, to renewed focus on water efficiency and storage, to the critical balancing of the needs of our cities, agriculture and the environment. Senator Hertzberg has already pushed pilot programs for capturing more stormwater and recycled water, as well as introduced legislation to stop wasteful dumping of treated water into the ocean. We look forward to partnering with him on California water solutions.”

State Water Board Curtailment Notice Threatens Thousands of Acres, Jobs

Byron, CA (June 7, 2016) – Byron-Bethany Irrigation District General Manager Rick Gilmore issued the following statement in response to the State Water Resources Control Board’s Curtailment Notice of June 12, 2015:

“In addition to the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) suffering back to back years of “zero water supply” from the Bureau of Reclamation for BBID’s Central Valley Project Service Area, the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) curtailment notice received today will have a devastating impact on the remaining customers of BBID, which holds water rights dating from over a century ago. As a steward of our great state’s resources, we understand the seriousness of the historic drought that is affecting California. However, this curtailment order will be extremely destructive to the customers we serve including nearly 160 farmers, 15,000 residents of the Mountain House community, and the energy projects in the area, all of which are essential to our community’s vitality.

The additional loss of water will destroy thousands of acres of crops and eliminate thousands of jobs, which will likely result in the irreparable loss of vibrant communities. Without water, our area will lose nearly 10,000 acres of almonds, cherries, sweet corn, grapes, tomatoes, walnuts, alfalfa and more. By this action, the SWRCB is taking away our ability to provide our customers with a safe, reliable water supply – a resource essential to life; particularly to the agricultural communities we serve.

In order to protect our customers and the crops in our service area, we will pursue relief from the SWRCB’s curtailment notice in Superior Court. We will vigorously defend our rights and will insist on due process and full consideration of factors that have not been adequately taken into account. We are optimistic that the Court will uphold our Constitutional rights, and the restriction on our diversion of water will be lifted before it has had a shattering impact on the communities we serve.”

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District Applauds Court Ruling Negating Curtailment Notices

Byron, CA (July 11, 2015) – The Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) continues to battle over a “notice of curtailment” sent by the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), given with the intent to strip century-old water rights from family farms and farming based communities. In a recent court decision Friday, July 10, in Sacramento County, curtailment notices sent to West Side Irrigation District were ruled unconstitutional by Judge Shelleyanne W. L. Chang. This ruling demonstrates that the State’s dramatic, over-reaching curtailment actions for all impacted districts, including BBID, are not only inappropriate and dangerous, but also illegal.

On Friday, Judge Chang issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) that blocks the enforcement of the curtailment notice, citing that the notices “result in a taking of petitioners’ property rights without a pre-deprivation hearing.” While the order is specific to the West Side Irrigation District, the Superior Court ruling and TRO have significant relevance to the court action waged by BBID to halt similar curtailment notices.

“The water right holders are absolutely vindicated by this ruling, which soundly rejects the coercive attempts by the SWRCB to curtail senior rights without a sound basis for doing so. The Court appropriately rejected the Attorney General’s failed attempts to backtrack on the Notices,” says Daniel Kelly, General Counsel for BBID. Attorneys in the West Side Irrigation District case stated that as a result of the ruling, “all curtailments sent to water users are now equally unconstitutional.” A total of 9,329 water rights have been cut off so far this year, according to the state.

“The implication of the Sacramento ruling is clear as it pertains to our case,” says Russell Kagehiro, BBID Board President. “Our position all along is that these curtailment notices were illegal, and sent without due process for water rights holders. We are very encouraged by the ruling and what it might mean in our continuing legal action.”

Access to water diversion for farming purposes in the BBID service area was established in the early 1900s and has been the lifeblood of the community and family farms here. The curtailment notice is nothing short of catastrophic. If enforced, the curtailment notice will strangle family farms, kill vital crops, compromise livestock, raise consumer prices, eliminate thousands of jobs, and ultimately destroy the ability to farm the land.

The deleterious effects of the illegal notices could have a significant impact on California’s recovering economy.

“We serve 160-plus farming families through our service area,” says Rick Gilmore, General Manager of BBID. “The crops they grow feed not only California, but truly the entire nation. If enforced, the curtailment notice would devastate these families, and raise prices on all sorts of produce throughout the country. Hopefully we will see similar rulings in our case, the law is clear: these notices are simply unconstitutional.”

BBID provides water for literally thousands of acres of rich farmland that provide an abundant harvest of corn, tomatoes, alfalfa, grapes, cherries, walnuts and more, plus ample ranch land. Farmers and ranchers are some of the best defenders of natural resources here in California, and should not be targeted by the state Water Board as a group to be punished.

BBID continues to assess the issue of water availability and is currently not diverting water under its pre-1914 appropriative water rights. This most recent court ruling echoes BBID’s position and the Board feels confident a similar conclusion will result from current legal action initiated by BBID.

“Whatever the ultimate decision with respect to diversions of water for BBID, we will vigorously defend our water rights for our customers and will seek damages from the SWRCB and State of California, not only for the coercive actions of the SWRCB, but also for the unlawful taking of BBID’s water rights through the issuance of the Notice and threats of enforcement,” added Kelly.