Public Forum on Groundwater Management Planned

On September 14th, local agencies including the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) are inviting the public to participate in a groundwater workshop. Members of the public will have an opportunity to learn about how their groundwater is being managed sustainably. To learn more about BBID’s role in groundwater management, click here.

Click here to register for next week’s event. The event flyer is below.

GroundwaterWorkshop39.14.21

UPDATE: Water Right Curtailments Set to be Lifted, State Water Board Says

Sacramento, CA (August 31, 2021) – On September 1, 2021, the unprecedented water right curtailments cutting off water supplies to thousands of water users in the Delta and San Joaquin watersheds will expire.

According to the update provided by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), the curtailments, which took effect on August 20, will terminate September 1. The SWRCB’s modeling tool indicates sufficient water will be available for water right holders, including the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID), to resume diversions.

BBID will resume normal water diversions once the curtailments cease. BBID’s pre-1914 water right, as well as its post-1914 water right serving the District’s West Side Service Area, are both curtailed. The water rate in the WSID Service Area will also revert to the regular 2021 rate.

Last Wednesday, BBID’s technical and legal team, as well as District leadership, met with Delta Watermaster Michael George to express objections to the SWRCB’s methodology used to determine water availability.

BBID, a senior water rights holder south of the Delta, was one of dozens of senior water right holders curtailed in 2015. BBID – facing a $5-plus million fine – prevailed before the SWRCB, proving that the methodology used by the SWRCB was flawed. Though the methodology has been revised since the SWRCB ruled in BBID’s favor in 2016, it still contains fatal flaws.

“This is a very fluid situation,” said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore. “We will monitor any informational updates provided by the State Water Board in the coming days and weeks. Ultimately, we remain strongly committed to protecting our water rights and preserving reliable water supplies for our growers, the community of Mountain House and our M&I customers. To that end, we will continue to work collaboratively with the State Water Board to help bring clarity to these critically important decisions.”

Public Workshop Planned for Groundwater Sustainability Plan

This evening, the public is invited to learn more about the plan to manage local groundwater for the long term.

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District and neighborhood water agencies in the Tracy Subbasin are preparing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Learn more about SGMA here.

The flyer for tonight’s event is below.

20210810_Tracy_Workshop_Flyer_Bilingual

State Water Board Takes Aim at Agriculture

Sacramento, CA (August 3, 2021) – In a rash action deeply harmful to California’s agricultural community, the State Water Board adopted potentially unlawful emergency regulations based on incomplete, and in some instances, inaccurate information, exposing the agricultural community to billions of dollars in lost economic productivity.

The emergency regulations can support curtailments that prematurely cut off more than 10,000 water right holders in the Delta and San Joaquin watersheds, nearly all of them devoted to providing reliable water for one of our state’s most essential industries: agriculture.

“The State Water Board is attempting to wrest regulatory control over pre-1914 water rights, just as it did during the last drought,” said Russell Kagehiro, Board President of the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID). “By targeting agriculture in the Delta region, the State Water Board is unfairly imposing an enormous burden on those who will sustain the greatest socioeconomic damage, by unfairly threatening thousands of jobs and valuable crops.”

BBID, a senior water rights holder south of the Delta, was one of dozens of senior water rights holders curtailed in 2015. BBID – facing a $5-plus million fine – prevailed before the State Water Board and proved that the methodology used by the State Water Board was flawed.

Just six years later, the State Water Board is again unfairly targeting California agriculture, by threatening to curtail agricultural water use in the Delta, and imperiling thousands of jobs and valuable crops, while urban conservation remains voluntary.

“The Board says its emergency regulations are based on ‘the best information available,’” said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore. “However, the Board’s methodology for determining water availability is built upon a series of flawed assumptions and has been shown by our legal and technical team to be inaccurate.”

Though the methodology has been revised since the State Water Board ruled in favor of BBID in 2016, it still contains fatal flaws. It mistakenly assumes native water resides in the Delta no more than one month, when preliminary modeling shows it resides 2-3 months. It does not account for return flows available to Delta diverters. Its demand data is incomplete, and its demand calculations are duplicative.

“BBID urges the State Water Board to abandon this coercive path and work with growers and irrigation districts,” Kagehiro said. “Shared sacrifice and a more complete understanding of water availability will reduce the severe impacts these regulations will undoubtedly have in some of California’s most vulnerable communities.

“Should the State Water Board continue down this road,” Kagehiro continued, “we will have no choice but to defend our water rights, which are the foundation for reliable water deliveries for multi-generational farming families, M&I customers, and the sole source of supply for the growing community of Mountain House.”

BBID Responds as State Water Board Issues Notice to Cut Off Senior Water Rights

Byron, CA (July 23, 2021) – “Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) is aware of the emergency Notice of Water Unavailability impacting senior, pre-1914 water rights, including the District’s, issued by the State Water Resources Control Board this afternoon.

We will vigorously defend our water rights and maintain that the best available data does not support such an extraordinary action by the SWRCB, whose methodology for determining water availability is deeply flawed.

In the coming days and weeks, BBID’s team of legal, engineering, and hydrological experts will seek remedies to protect the customers we serve, including the multi-generational farming families who rely upon the water we provide.” – Rick Gilmore, General Manager

State Cuts Off Water to Thousands of Growers, Water Agencies

Sacramento, CA (June 15, 2021) – In a drastic move, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) notified thousands of California water agencies, growers, and landowners that their supply of water is cut off.

Yesterday the State Water Board sent water unavailability notices to 4,300 California water holders with post-1914 water rights, also known as junior water rights. This directive impacts San Joaquin County growers and M&I customers in the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District’s (BBID) West Side Service Area.

“We do not believe the best available data nor the State Water Board’s flawed water availability methodology support water right curtailments for post-1914 or pre-1914 water rights,” said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore. “We also find it disappointing to initially learn about the State Water Board’s decision to issue notices of water unavailability from the media before receiving direct notice from the State Water Board,” Gilmore said.

BBID’s technical team previously identified several significant flaws with the State Water Board’s methodology, including the use of outdated data from past years instead of real-time information when available. The methodology also neglects to account for the different characteristics of watersheds across the state, including the quantity and quality of available data.

Meanwhile, notices were also sent to 2,300 senior water rights holders (pre-1914 and riparian), including BBID, informing them that similar notices of water unavailability may be sent this summer. The majority of BBID’s service area is supplied by water diverted under a pre-1914 water right.

In 2015, BBID successfully defended its senior water rights against an unprecedented administrative civil liability (ACL) complaint brought by the State Water Board. The complaint alleged BBID diverted water when none was available, threatening a $5-plus million dollar fine. The State Water Board eventually dismissed the complaint when BBID’s legal team demonstrated there was, in fact, water available.

“BBID is actively pursuing all available remedies to ensure reliable water supplies for our customers,” said BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro, “while examining every avenue to protect our foundational water rights. As we have done in the past, we will stand up for the communities we serve.”

Lawsuit Endangers Reliable Water and Food Supply

Byron, CA (June 11, 2021)Legal action initiated by a coalition of California environmental interest groups could disrupt reliable water supplies for nearly 100 water purveyors from Shasta Lake to Sacramento, across the Central Valley, Silicon Valley, and beyond.

In a recent court filing, Restore the Delta, Planning and Conservation League and the Center for Biological Diversity, who had already sued the United States Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and the United States Department of Interior, named nearly 100 Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID), as defendants. The complaint seeks to invalidate, without cause, CVP water contracts that are foundational to California’s water supply, especially for its agricultural industry that provides more than half of the nation’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

The heart of the plantiffs’ case is the “conversion” of CVP contracts from “long-term” or “interim renewal” contracts, which Reclamation would renew upon expiration, to permanent contracts. BBID acted in good faith utilizing a provision in federal legislation known as the WIIN Act to convert its CVP contracts to repayment contracts, carrying a perpetual term.  The purpose of the conversion simply allows BBID, and other CVP contractors, to immediately repay Reclamation a debt obligation; it does not alter the operation of the CVP or the quantity of water that a contractor is entitled to receive.  BBID’s conversion was a common-sense, financially prudent move benefitting the District’s agricultural growers in San Joaquin County.

So, what’s the sticking point? Environmental interests argue Reclamation was legally obligated to perform an intensive ecological review before it converted BBID’s and other contractors’ CVP contracts. And because Reclamation didn’t do so, the complaint argues, those contracts violate the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Here’s the reality. The WIIN Act directs Reclamation to execute these contract conversions when a contractor requests it. In other words, federal law mandates these contract conversions. In any event, the prospect of a lengthy, expensive, and ultimately redundant review process (when other than the method of payment, the substantive contract obligations do not change) is a poor use of taxpayer resources.

The complaint further argues that the new contracts essentially guarantee a CVP contractor its full supply.  In fact, prior to execution of the new contracts, Reclamation rarely provided a 100% allocation to its CVP contractors due to a host of hydrological, regulatory, and environmental factors.     For example, BBID endured three consecutive years of a 0% allocation during the last drought.  This reality will not change with execution of the new contracts.   This year, under the new repayment contracts, BBID’s initial 5% allocation for irrigation was first suspended, and now eliminated altogether in the wake of our second straight dry winter.  This year, water for municipal and industrial purposes has been drastically reduced from 55% to 25%.

We all recognize the great challenges ahead. Instead of lawsuits like these, we must focus on finding common ground and funding meaningful, multi-benefit solutions that balance the beneficial uses of California’s water supply and protect our environmental resources in the face of of diminishing supplies and increasing demand.

Notice of Public Meeting: Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan

East Contra Costa cities, water districts and the County, known as the East Contra Costa (ECC) Groundwater Sustainability Working Group, have joined together to prepare a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). The draft GSP will comply with recent laws that have changed the way Californians are required to manage their groundwater and will assist the region in maintaining a sustainable groundwater basin.

Please join us On-Line on June 23, 2021, 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Register Here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8897997274454333199

During this public meeting participants will:

  1. Learn what the new law (Sustainable Groundwater Management Act [SGMA] is and how it affects East Contra Costa;
  1. Receive an overview of what is in the draft GSP;
  2. Learn more about Key Topics, Technical Work, and Findings to Date;
  3. Discuss the potential for undesirable results (in the context of SGMA) that the GSP will work to prevent;
  4. Learn how to provide input on the draft GSP.

The workshop will include opportunities to ask questions and provide feedback on the discussion topics. Due to ongoing public health considerations this will be an on-line only meeting.

If you need any assistance participating in this meeting, contact facilitation-team@comcast.net to receive other options.

For additional information about SGMA, the draft ECC GSP, to provide more detailed comments, or to be included on the email list, please send us an email, groundwaterinfo@dcd.cccounty.us

“Planning a secure groundwater future”

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Water Supply Cuts Demonstrate Need for Long-Term Investments, Solutions

Sacramento, CA (May 28, 2021) – In the midst of worsening drought conditions, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) on Wednesday announced deeper water supply cuts for farms and communities, including those served by the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID).

The initial 2021 Central Valley Project (CVP) allocation for south-of-Delta CVP contractors including BBID was first set at 5% and then suspended until further notice. Reclamation announced the allocation has been eliminated altogether. The allocation for M&I water service contractors was also reduced from 55% to 25%.

BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore said in response:

“We recognize the difficultly Reclamation faces in fulfilling Central Valley Project water deliveries in a critically dry year. It yet again underscores the need for significant regulatory reform and diverse, meaningful engagement from federal and state leadership.

It also demands substantial investments to mitigate the very real short-term impacts to our growers in San Joaquin County and other communities impacted by a 0% CVP allocation, as well as for long-term sustainable solutions to bolster our resilience against this drought – and the next, and the one after that.

Between the October 2020 to May 2021, nearly 3.3 million Acre Feet of water passed through the Delta and flowed out to the Golden Gate Bridge – two thirds of the Delta inflow. Had we been able to capture even a small fraction of that water, it would have dramatically improved the situation we find ourselves in today.

We missed the opportunity to do so because of outdated environmental policies that have proven ineffective for restoring declining fish populations, and due to a lack of progress on building and expanding storage facilities to store water when it’s abundant, for dry years exactly like this.

We must work together in the months and years to come to reshape the CVP – its critical infrastructure, and the regulations that govern it – in order to meet the needs of our communities and provide reliable water for agriculture.”

Updated CVP Allocation Announced; Water Unavailable Until Further Notice

Sacramento, CA (March 23, 2021) – Today, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) updated the water allocation for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID). Reclamation kept its initial 5% allocation in place, but suspended availability of that water until further notice. BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore issued the following statement: 

“We recognize that California is in the midst of extraordinary dry conditions, forcing Reclamation to take a measured approach to balancing regulatory and contractual obligations for the Central Valley Project. 

Today’s announcement unfortunately creates additional uncertainty and financial strain on growers in BBID’s CVP Service Area. The time to purchase crop insurance has come and gone, and crops are already in the ground. 

The District will pursue water transfers to meet the needs of our growers, albeit at a much higher cost than CVP water. 

We appreciate the Bureau’s commitment to preserve its initial allocation as hydrology continues to worsen. Our second straight dry winter — punctuated by a lack of significant snowfall during the month of March — makes it all the more challenging to meet the complex, diverse water needs of the state.”

Reclamation’s announcement preserves the allocation announced in February, but delays access to that water.

California’s Department of Water Resources also reduced the allocation for State Water Project Contractors from 10 percent to 5 percent.