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…”

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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 Responds to Critical Mercury News AB 313 Editorial

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District on Monday issued a letter to the San Jose Mercury News, responding to the newspaper’s critical editorial on Assembly Bill 313, a BBID-backed water bill that restores fairness for the state’s water rights holders.

The Mercury News limits its Letters to the Editor to 150 words, so BBID chose to post its full response here. The original editorial is posted below BBID’s letter.

BBID’s Response

BBID Response to Mercury News Op-Ed

Original Mercury News Editorial

Editorial: Don't cave to Big Ag; veto water rights bill

BBID Responds to AB 313 Opposition Letter

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District is setting the record straight on Assembly Bill 313, a good governance bill ensuring fundamental fairness and due process for California’s water rights holders. BBID sent the below letter to Governor Brown, responding to a recent opposition letter submitted by a group of environmental organizations.

Lawmakers decisively passed the bill on the final day of the Legislative session. Introduced by Adam Gray (D-Merced), AB 313 now awaits Governor Brown’s signature.

BBID Response to AB 313 Opposition Letter

Multiple Agencies & Organizations Urge Governor to Sign AB 313 (Updating)

Joining Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, which previously submitted a letter to Governor Brown urging him to sign AB 313, multiple agencies have also sent the Governor letters of support. The bill introduced by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) restores due process to water rights holders. AB 313 now awaits Governor Brown’s signature.

This post is being updated as more agencies submit letters to the Governor.

A coalition of agricultural organizations

AB 313 (Gray) 2017_09-20 Water Rights_Ag Coalition SUPPORT GOVERNOR

 

Northern California Water Association

NCWA_GovernorAB313Sept2717

 

Yuba County Water Agency

AB 313 (Gray}-Support

 

Merced Irrigation District

AB 313 (AG) Support Letter MeID

 

San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Authority

Exchange Contractors Support of AB 313 - 9-20-17

 

Placer County Water Agency

PCWA Support AB 313 (2)

 

Western Canal Water District

WCWD_Gov.Brown.AB313.9.21.17

 

United Water Conservation District

United Water Conservation Dist. AB 313 Letter of Support

 

Central California Irrigation District

CCID AB 313

 

Cucamonga Valley Water District

CVWD AB 313 Request for Signature CVWD

 

Columbia Canal Company

CCC RevisedAssemblyBill313

 

San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority

170922 - SLDMWA AB313 Support Letter to Governor - SUBMITTED

 

Patterson Irrigation District

PattersonID_2017-09-22 AB 313 Letter to Jerry Brown

 

Stanford Vina Ranch Irrigation Company

Stanford Vina Ranch Irrigation Company

 

Steve Nicolaou, Local Attorney

Letter to Hon. Edmund G. Brown, Jr. dated 09-28-2017

BBID Urges Gov. Brown to Sign AB 313

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District is urging Governor Jerry Brown to sign landmark legislation restoring due process for the state’s water rights holders.

BBID prepared the following letter in support of Assembly Bill 313. Lawmakers decisively passed the bill on the final day of the Legislative session. Introduced by Adam Gray (D-Merced), AB 313 now awaits Governor Brown’s signature.

BBID Sign AB 313 Support Letter

Turlock Journal: Water Rights Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature

From the Turlock Journal:

A landmark passage of water rights legislation occurred over the weekend when Assemblyman Adam Gray’s Assembly Bill 313 received final approval on the last day of the legislative session – the next-to-final step toward becoming law for the bill, which requires that unbiased administrative law judges conduct water rights enforcement hearings, rather than the State Water Board.

Read more below.

Turlock Journal - Water Rights Bill Awaits Governor's Signature (9.19.17)

Modesto Bee: Law Would Bring Fairness to Water Board Disputes

On September 17th, The Modesto Bee penned an editorial calling on the public to urge Governor Brown to sign Assembly Bill 313, water rights reform legislation supported by Byron-Bethany Irrigation District.

The Bee says, “AB313 is all about one thing – fairness.”

AB 313 passed in the Senate on the final day of the Legislative session and now awaits the Governor’s signature.

9-17-17 - Law would bring fairness to water board disputes | The Modesto Bee

BBID-Backed Water Reform Bill Passes, Securing Key Victory for Water Rights Holders

Sacramento, CA (September 16th, 2017) – In a resounding victory for fairness and good governance, lawmakers decisively passed a major water reform bill on the final day of the Legislative session. Assembly Bill 313, introduced by Adam Gray (D-Merced) and backed by Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID), makes critical changes to restore due process for the state’s water rights holders.

“We congratulate Assemblyman Gray for successfully championing this issue. The passage of this bill secures a victory for California’s communities that rely upon foundational water rights for the lifeline of reliable water,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “AB 313 received strong, bipartisan support from the get-go, a clear sign this issue stretched across party lines. Thanks to Assemblyman Gray’s leadership, AB 313 is one signature away from becoming law.”

BBID provided technical support in crafting the bill, which removes built-in conflicts of interest by establishing a new water rights management structure. AB 313 requires unbiased, administrative law judges to hear all water rights matters in a newly-created Water Rights Division in the Office of Administrative Hearings. The shift ensures these often complicated, controversial matters are heard by a neutral body.

Currently, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) exercises near-comprehensive control over California’s water rights. The SWRCB writes regulations, initiates enforcement actions, and conducts hearings in its own courtroom in which Board staff act as the prosecution and Board members act as judge and jury.

In a statement posted on his website, Assemblyman Gray said, “The region I represent is the target of a massive water grab from the State Water Resources Control Board. A water grab of this size would cost the local economy hundreds of millions of dollars. Despite receiving thousands of comments refuting the faulty science contained in their report, and repeated requests from community leaders to fully consider the impact of jeopardizing the drinking water supply of thousands of people, the water board is poised to dismiss our concerns and adopt the report. If there is any lesson this fight has taught me, it is that the Legislature has handed far too much power over to bureaucrats who simply do not care about the people I represent.”

Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) represents the 21st Assembly District, encompassing all of Merced County and portions of Stanislaus County.

“Throughout my time in the legislature, I have been working to restore fairness and create checks on the power of unelected bureaucrats on the State Water Board,” continued Gray. “The passage of AB 313 is a step in the right direction. This bill levels the playing field by ensuring that water rights holders receive the same due process and objectivity that our justice system promises everyone – nothing more, nothing less.”

AB 313’s productive transfer of power eliminates any potential duplicative efforts for any similar hearings and responsibility to fall under the SWRCB.

The bill now heads to Governor Brown’s desk for his signature.