Historic Vote Sets Stage for Major Irrigation District Merger

Byron, CA (July 26, 2016) – At a history-making board meeting, Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) gave unanimous support to merge with West Side Irrigation District (WSID). The plan to consolidate the two major Tracy-area irrigation districts is one step closer to reality, after BBID’s Board of Directors voted 6-0 in favor of the merger. WSID leaders were in attendance at the meeting.

“Our two districts becoming one will be a stronger force in the water industry, ensuring greater water reliability for our customers,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “Given the current political climate and recent challenges to water rights, there’s strength in numbers.”

The resolution approved by BBID Tuesday calls for the 6,000-acre WSID service area west of Tracy to be incorporated into the existing 30,000-acre service area of BBID, establishing a single, 36,000-acre district. At a board meeting earlier this month, WSID’s Board of Directors voice d their support for the plan with a 3-1 vote.

The affirmative votes by both districts came after carefully weighing the benefits a consolidation would bring customers, including stronger water resources and financial sustainability. An ad-hoc committee comprised of members from both districts reviewed all aspects of a potential merger, toured district  facilities and examined financial data. Landowners voiced strong support at a public meeting.

Significant steps remain in the coming months before the consolidation can become official. The San Joaquin Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) has indicated both agencies will be required to complete a municipal service review (MSR), as well as enter into a property tax sharing agreement with San Joaquin County. Ultimately, San Joaquin LAFCO must sign off on a district reorganization plan to finalize the merger.

The last time BBID went before LAFCO was more than a decade ago, in 2004, when BBID successfully merged with Plain View Water District.

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District Welcomes Progress In Possible Detachment Process in Discovery Bay

Byron, CA (December 8, 2015) – Following open dialogue with Byron Bethany Irrigation District (BBID), officials with the Discovery Bay Community Services District (DBCSD) are moving forward with the process of possible detachment of overlapping service areas. Portions of the Town where BBID has been receiving property tax revenue has been within BBID for over a century and received a surface water supply under the District’s pre-1914 water right.

At its regular board meeting of December 2nd, DBCSD unanimously passed a non-binding resolution in support of the detachment process. The action followed a November 23rd BBID board meeting, during which BBID’s Board of Directors met directly with DBSCD and officials with the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, encouraging all interested parties to speak openly and make positive progress toward a resolution.

“We appreciate that DBSCD has taken a clear, public position on this matter,” said BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro. “We recognize the need for honesty and transparency regarding this complex and important issue. In the weeks and and months ahead, we will continue building common ground to reach a careful, reasonable and responsible solution.”

Contra Costa County Supervisors on November 17th voted unanimously, 5-0, to ask the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) in San Joaquin County to consider the detachment of parts of Discovery Bay from BBID. Contra Costa County’s sudden pursuit of detachment surprised and concerned BBID’s Board of Directors, as it remains uncertain whether detachment could compromise the future water supply of Discovery Bay.

“Although detachment will cause a sizable water rate increase for BBID customers within Contra Costa County’s agricultural core and eastern Alameda County, the District understands the position taken by the Town of Discovery Bay”, said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore.

The matter rests in the hands of LAFCO, the agency responsible for coordinating changes to local government boundaries, including annexations, consolidations and detachments. It is specifically charged by law with encouraging the orderly formation and development of all the governmental agencies within its jurisdiction.

“This process still requires a great deal of thought and measured discussion between all stakeholders,” said BBID Board Vice President Tim Maggiore. “We look forward to LAFCO’s thorough examination as we move toward a decision that satisfies not only BBID’s constituents, but our neighboring agency’s.”

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District Welcomes Open Discussion on Possible Detachment Process in Town of Discovery Bay

Byron, CA (November 24, 2015) – At a regular board meeting Monday, Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) initiated an open, transparent line of communication among the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors and the Discovery Bay Community Services District (DBCSD) related to a possible detachment process of overlapping service areas. Currently, the property tax revenue paid by the affected residents of the Town of Discovery Bay helps ensure the future water supply of the growing residential community. Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Piepho’s Chief of Staff Tomi Riley addressed the BBID Board, clarifying some issues and participating in much of the discussion.

“We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to speak directly on this matter in an open, public forum,” said BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro. “This meeting set a stage toward positive progress, working collaboratively with all interested parties. While Supervisor Piepho was unable to attend the meeting, we appreciate Ms. Riley bringing light to some of our primary concerns.”

The BBID agenda item was in response to the November 17 Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors’ action asking the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) in San Joaquin County to consider the detachment of portions of the Town of Discovery Bay from BBID. Contra Costa County’s pursuit of detachment concerns the BBID Board of Directors as it represents a hasty, premature step with unknown implications. In Ms. Riley’s comments, she specifically addressed inconsistencies in recent communications from Piepho’s office concerning BBID’s finances.

“We need to slow down the train,” added Kagehiro. “This discussion was essential to ensure we maintain an open dialogue with all stakeholders. There are many potential consequences with detachment. This is not a decision that can be made too hastily, and the conversation needs to include everyone.”

Rick Howard, general manager of the DBCSD, addressed the BBID Board and commented that the Town of Discovery Bay had not taken a formal position on this matter, but also welcomed the open communication among agencies. Also present at the meeting were more than a dozen BBID agricultural customers and several Discovery Bay residents.

“As this matter heads to LAFCO, we look forward to participating openly with our neighboring agencies recognizing the interests of all constituents,” said BBID Board Vice President Tim Maggiore. “This is a long road ahead that requires thoughtful evaluation and analysis.”

Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Vote Triggers Possible Detachment Process in Town of Discovery Bay

Byron, CA (November 17, 2015) – In a unanimous 5-0 decision, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted to ask the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) in San Joaquin County to consider the detachment of portions of the Town of Discovery Bay from the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID). Currently, the property tax revenue paid by the affected residents of Discovery Bay helps ensure the future water supply of this growing residential community. The authorization of the application represents the beginning of a formal process that could jeopardize the needs of the community moving forward.

“We are absolutely puzzled by the Board’s premature action on this issue,” says BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro. “All interested parties are in the very early stages of the analysis of rates, services and impacts, and the relationship between the Town of Discovery Bay and BBID. Without further review of the future water supply needs of Discovery Bay, particularly in light of a historic drought, this authorization is irresponsible.”

In the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors’ consideration of the item, county staff was asked to prepare a series of documents needed for the Board to pursue detachment of the overlapping tax rate areas for water service between BBID and the Discovery Bay Community Services District. In the staff report made public on November 13th, that early examination clearly states that the true impacts are unknown. The document affirms the following:

The MSR [Municipal Service Review] also noted that further study is needed to fully analyze the service and fiscal implications of such a detachment to both the residents and BBID.

Among the unanswered questions are how the Town of Discovery Bay will receive water in the future and how current BBID customers’ water rates will be impacted if the district loses this tax revenue. Currently, the nearly $685,000 received annually by BBID through the property tax allocation contributes to the organization’s general fund and allows for the development and protection of future water supply as well as basic operations. While this tax revenue could be allocated to another service, Discovery Bay residents will not see a reduction in their property tax assessments as a result of any future LAFCO decision.

In further action during today’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors directed the County Administrator to explore allocation of the BBID property tax revenues from the overlap areas to the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD), a decision that could blur current negotiations among the affected agencies. Earlier this month, the BBID Board of Directors directed staff to develop a proposal that would bring more than $1 million to ECCFPD over five years.

“We recognize that we need to help and we have a current offer on the table that would bring real relief, “ says BBID Board Member Larry Enos. “But we cannot do this on the backs of local farmers and ranchers. Our proposal balances the current need for fire services with the future need for a reliable water supply, without putting an already hard-hit agriculture community at greater risk”

LAFCO is the agency responsible for coordinating changes to local government boundaries, including annexations, consolidations and detachments. It is specifically charged by law with encouraging the orderly formation and development of all the governmental agencies within its jurisdiction.

“It is incumbent upon the LAFCO organizations in our region to study this issue completely before moving forward,” adds BBID Board Vice President Tim Maggiore. “Anything short of that is inconsistent with good governance and will only lead to fractured relationships.”