Byron, CA (February 18, 2016) –On February 5, 2016, Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) issued subpoenas to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). The subpoenas request information regarding SWRCB’s authority to conduct criminal background checks on BBID’s elected board members and/or general manager. The subpoenas were issued because BBID has information indicating the SWRCB requested a criminal background check of one of BBID’s elected Board members, Board President Russell Kagehiro.
On February 8, 2016, the press reported that the SWRCB’s Prosecutor, Andrew Tauriainen, claimed that the subpoenas were “baseless,” suggesting BBID manufactured the facts supporting the subpoenas.
On February 11, 2016, the SWRCB and its Prosecutor responded separately to the subpoenas issued by BBID. The responses provide that the SWRCB does not possess any documents responsive to the subpoena. The SWRCB’s Prosecutor also states that BBID’s request was “unsubstantiated,” and was issued to “harass and distract” the State’s prosecution team.
With no information available from the SWRCB regarding this apparent request for a background check of Mr. Kagehiro, BBID will request that the California Department of Justice conduct an investigation to determine whether a background check on any other BBID elected board members and/or general manager was sought by anyone at the SWRCB.
“This is a clear abuse of power by a state regulatory agency that has gone rogue,” said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore. “In addition to an investigation by the Attorney General, BBID will call upon the legislature to conduct legislative hearings into the SWRCB’s conduct.
Byron, CA (August 25, 2015) – On August 25, 2015, nearly 100 employees, board members and neighbors gathered at Byron-Bethany Irrigation District to honor the heroic measures taken by the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority several weeks ago when the organization literally changed the direction of the Delta-Mendota Canal for the first time in history. The emergency “Pump Back Program” was a desperate drought project – the first of its kind designed to keep six area water districts from going dry.
“Our team accomplished the impossible,” says Frances Mizuno, Assistant Executive Director of San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which operates the canal. “Moving water in the opposite direction while facing daunting time constraints was nothing short of amazing. This team is to be applauded for their tenacity and hard work.”
The $700,000 project was led by Engineering Director Bob Martin and involved the installation of several massive pumps in three locations over a six-week period between May and July. The project allowed canal water to be lifted 18 feet along 62 miles from the San Luis Reservoir to the City of Tracy. The result was more than 80,000 acre-feet of banked water in the San Luis Reservoir to get the water agencies through the summer. The districts include the Del Puerto Water District, the West Stanislaus Irrigation District, the Patterson Irrigation District, the Banta-Carbona Irrigation District, Byron-Bethany Irrigation District and the City of Tracy.
“This quick thinking and unconventional solution brought a real success story in our region during an otherwise extremely dire period,” says Rick Gilmore, General Manager of Byron-Bethany Irrigation District. “Recent actions by the State Water Board have meant that we simply do not have the water we need to meet the needs of our customers. We are grateful to the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority for providing our farmers and ranchers with a lifeline.”
Tracy, CA (July 20, 2015) – The Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) received notice today of a draft Administrative Civil Liability Complaint. The complaint, issued by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), proposes to penalize BBID in the amount of $1.5 million for exercising its senior water rights.
This unprecedented retaliatory action subjects the District to severe drought-related penalties, and furthers the devastating impacts to local farmers and ranchers.
“The State Board is choosing to make an arbitrary example out of BBID at the expense of our customers and the communities their hard work supports,” says BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro. “BBID will vigorously defend its rights to water and due process. The landowners and others that rely upon BBID’s senior water rights deserve no less.”
BBID is one of a handful of agencies that had challenged the SWRCB’s unlawful June 12, 2015 curtailment of water rights (Curtailment Notice). BBID challenged the SWRCB in a lawsuit, filed in Contra Costa County on June 26, 2015. In that lawsuit, BBID seeks substantial damages from the SWRCB for unlawfully taking BBID’s water rights as well as for the consequential harm resulting to landowners within BBID’s service area.
BBID has yet to have its day in court because the SWRCB has filed a procedural motion with the Contra Costa Superior Court divesting the court of jurisdiction to hear any requests for relief by BBID. The SWRCB has not only deprived BBID of due process protections and its rights to divert water by issuance of the Curtailment Notice, but also by filing motions that deprive any court of providing BBID with any relief until the case gets referred to a “neutral” county.
The SWRCB’s Curtailment Notice, press releases, and all other communications clearly articulate that the SWRCB has pre-determined, without any evidentiary support, that there is no water available for BBID under its water rights.
“This matter requires an impartial judge in order to achieve a fair resolution,” said Daniel Kelly, BBID’s general counsel. “The administrative body that issued the complaint cannot be expected to fairly evaluate the merits of the claim itself. The State Board’s action makes a mess of a very serious situation with very severe consequences.”
BBID will request a hearing before the SWRCB and also request that whatever Court eventually hears the underlying cases also hear the enforcement action.
BBID looks forward to the opportunity to cross examine SWRCB witnesses regarding the specific facts related to BBID’s diversions, the supposed unavailability of water at BBID’s point of diversion, and the role the SWRCB’s exceptions and waivers of enforcement played in the availability of water for BBID.
“We are confident that, through the appropriate civil discovery processes, BBID will establish that the SWRCB has been less than candid in the representations it has made about the Curtailment Notices and BBID’s lawful exercise of its water rights,” Kelly added.