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.
Tracy, CA (July 14, 2016) – In a move that sets the stage for two major Tracy area irrigation districts to join forces, leaders with the West Side Irrigation District (WSID) gave their official approval to merge with Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID). WSID’s Board of Directors voted 3-1 in favor of the action at their board meeting Wednesday night.
WSID’s vote came after months of thoughtful discussion between the two districts carefully weighing the benefits a consolidation would bring customers, including stronger water resources and ongoing financial sustainability. A merger would result in the incorporation of WSID’s existing 6,000-acre service area west of Tracy into the existing 30,000-acre service area of BBID, establishing a single, 36,000-acre district.
“We see the potential for better water reliability as one district,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “Sharing resources can only help us serve our customers more effectively and efficiently.”
Over the last few months, an ad-hoc committee comprised of members from both districts reviewed all aspects of a potential merger. The committee toured district facilities and poured over financial data. A public meeting seeking input from landowners in both districts found overwhelming support.
The matter now rests in the hands of BBID’s Board of Directors, set to take a vote at the District’s next board meeting. If BBID votes to merge with WSID, a district reorganization plan would be submitted to the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) for final approval.
It would be the second merger BBID has successfully undertaken. In 2004, BBID merged with Plainview Water District.
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.