BBID Issues Letter to State Water Board on Landmark Water Rights Case

In a concerted effort to fairly and efficiently resolve a landmark water rights case, the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) on Tuesday issued the below letter to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).

The letter references ongoing litigation that BBID and other petitioners are engaged in against the SWRCB in Santa Clara County.

Read more about the case here. More coverage is here. The full letter is below.

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READ: Final Statement of Decision Issued in Phase One of Water Rights Trial

On Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Superior Court issued its final statement of decision in phase one of a landmark water rights trial. The judge ruled that the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) lacks jurisdiction to enforce priority of rights between pre-1914 and riparian water rights.

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) filed the action, challenging unlawful curtailment notices issued by the SWRCB in June 2015 to pre-1914 water rights holders, including BBID. Judge Brian Walsh also determined that the curtailment notices violated BBID’s due process rights.

Read the final Statement of Decision from Judge Brian Walsh below.

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Landmark Court Ruling Strengthens Senior Water Rights

San Jose, CA (February 21, 2018) – In a decision that reaffirms and solidifies the oldest water rights in California, the Santa Clara County Superior Court ruled Wednesday that the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) lacks jurisdiction to enforce priority of rights between pre-1914 and riparian water rights.

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) filed the action, challenging unlawful curtailment notices issued by the SWRCB in June 2015 to pre-1914 water rights holders, including BBID. Judge Brian Walsh also determined 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.

“We strongly agree with the Judge’s decision,” said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore. “This is a step toward a more equitable, protective process that ensures senior water rights holders across California will be able to rightfully exercise their property rights to the fullest extent of the law.”

In 2016, BBID prevailed in a related administrative hearing before the SWRCB, which sought enforcement against the District for allegedly diverting water when none was available under its priority of right, and alleging a potential $5 million fine. BBID’s legal team argued that careful analysis of the prosecution team’s evidence proved the SWRCB was ultimately incorrect. The SWRCB granted BBID’s motion for judgment dismissing the ACL complaint, citing the prosecution team’s failure to prove its case. The action before the Superior Court in Santa Clara was filed by BBID before the administrative proceedings began.

The Santa Clara County Superior Court will now hear Phases Two and Three of the action, including BBID’s takings claim. BBID will pursue recovery of its substantial legal fees and other costs associated with the SWRCB’s enforcement action, totaling millions of dollars.

“Our legal team is currently reviewing the ruling and its implications in greater detail,” Gilmore said. “We are hopeful that the decision generates momentum for positive change and brings renewed clarity to a complex, but critical arena. We remain committed to seeking collaborative, substantive solutions that provide fairness and due process for California’s water rights holders, on behalf of the communities that rely upon the foundation of reliable water.”

Read the full decision here.

 

Landmark Water Rights Case Moves Forward

Santa Clara, CA (September 30, 2016) – A historic case brought to protect some of the oldest water rights in California is moving forward. In Santa Clara County Superior Court on Friday, September 30th, Judge Peter Kirwan ruled that there is sufficient legal cause for the case to proceed.

The Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) filed the action last June, challenging the unlawful curtailment notices sent to pre-1914 water rights holders, including BBID, by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). The unprecedented notices sought to prevent senior water rights holders from lawfully exercising their water rights.

“We are pleased with Judge Kirwan’s decision,”said BBID General Counsel Michael Vergara.“It reflects the gravity and complexity of this case, and refuse s to allow the SWRCB to escape its illegitimate decision to carelessly threaten the livelihood of people and businesses that depend on water from BBID and similarly situated water right holders.”

BBID recently prevailed in a separate administrative hearing before the SWRCB, which brought an enforcement action accusing the District of diverting water when none was available, threatening a $5 million fine. BBID’s legal team argued that careful analysis of the data proved the SWRCB was ultimately incorrect. In June, the SWRCB dismissed its complaint, citing the prosecution team’s failure to prove its case. The action before the Superior Court in Santa Clara was filed by BBID before those proceedings began, and has since been amended to reflect the outcome.

In addition to attempting to bring clarity to – and protect – senior water rights in California, BBID is also seeking to recover its costs of purchasing additional water last year, as well as recover substantial legal fees and other costs associated with the SWRCB’s enforcement action.

SWRCB attorneys argued in court Friday to have the case thrown out, but the judge disagreed. In a procedural ruling, the judge also opted to allow the State Water Contractors, an association of 27 public water providers, to become a party in the case.

Meanwhile, BBID has a separate action pending in Sacramento County Superior Court, challenging the SWRCB’s improper assertion of jurisdiction over pre -1914 water rights, as set forth in its dismissal of the enforcement action.

“Grappling with these complex legal issues is part of our duty to protect the water rights that provide the very foundation for our communities,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “These cases have real impacts for not only the multi-generational family farmers in our district, but for senior water rights holders across the state.”

Read the Joint Case Management Conference Statement here.