BBID Water Supply Update – July 2022

Byron, CA (July 25, 2022)Due to recent State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) actions, the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (“BBID” or “District”) is advising its customers of potential future curtailment of the District’s water rights, which may come this summer.

At its regular July meeting, the State Board approved and adopted a revised Emergency Regulation regarding water use and curtailment in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed.  The revised Emergency Regulation will now be considered by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) before it becomes law. If enacted, the revised Emergency Regulation will likely lead to another, deeper round of curtailments in mid-August.  We anticipate such curtailments reaching BBID’s post-1914 right, serving the West Side Service Area, as well as BBID’s pre-1914 senior water right, serving the Byron and Bethany service areas.

Earlier this month and in the span of less than one week, the State Board issued, then rescinded curtailment with little notice and no explanation.

Before the State Board rescinded the last curtailment order, BBID’s legal team filed a request for a Temporary Restraining Order, arguing the order was issued without due process and is not supported by adequate evidence. BBID also argues the methodology used by the State Board to determine water unavailability is fatally flawed, and cannot support curtailment of BBID’s water rights. Since last summer, and on numerous occasions, the District’s team of legal, engineering, and hydrology experts offered comments and possible solutions to the State Board to refine the methodology and improve its accuracy.  Despite these comments, and those made by other Delta stakeholders, significant problems remain with the methodology and it remains unsuitable for determination of curtailments in the Delta.

The District’s TRO is still pending before a Sacramento County Superior Court, and the hearing on it is scheduled for next week—July 29.  If the judge grants BBID’s request, future curtailments this summer are unlikely.  This, however, depends on the relief the judge provides.  The District commits to providing additional updates with any developments in this rapidly evolving situation.

In the meantime, BBID continues to secure alternative water supplies and vigorously defending its water rights.

ALERT: State Lifts Curtailments

Byron, CA (July 13, 2022) Just days after ordering the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) to shut off its pumps and halt water deliveries at the height of the growing season, the State Water Resources Control Board (Board) lifted the curtailments of BBID’s water rights.

At 4:07 on Tuesday, the Board issued a Drought Update advising that the pre-1914 water right serving much of BBID’s service area, and the post-1914 water right serving the District’s West Side Service Area, are no longer curtailed.

“Based on the latest guidance from the Board, BBID will immediately resume regular water deliveries,” said BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro. “We hope, at this point, the roller-coaster ride threatening the harvesting of many perishable crops in BBID will cease, and we can get back to the business of delivering water to our farmers and providing the sole source of water to the 28,000 people of Mountain House.”

Last week, with less than 24 hours’ notice, the Board abruptly curtailed BBID’s senior water rights, effective July 7th. That came one month after the Board advised Delta diverters, including BBID, that pre-1914 and post-1914 (without Term 91) water right holders in the Legal Delta would not be curtailed this year. After this latest action, it is unclear if future curtailments are possible this summer.

On Monday, the day before curtailments were lifted, BBID’s legal team filed an application for a Temporary Restraining Order in Sacramento County Superior Court, arguing the orders were issued without due process and are not supported by adequate evidence. BBID also argued the methodology used by the Board to determine water unavailability is fatally flawed. For months, the District’s team of legal, engineering, and hydrology experts worked continuously with the Board to refine the model to improve its accuracy and usability, but significant problems remain.

“In the weeks and months ahead, we urge the Board to recognize that these decisions are not made in a vacuum and have real consequences for the communities we serve,” Kagehiro added. “The back-and-forth of the last few days has left our growers in an extremely difficult position with crops just days away from harvest. We expect better from our governmental agencies.”

State Shuts Off Water, Putting Crops in Peril

Byron, CA (July 7, 2022) The State Water Resources Control Board (Board) ordered Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) to shut off its pumps and halt water deliveries at the peak of the growing season. After 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, and with less than 24-hour notice, the Board abruptly curtailed BBID’s senior water rights, effective Thursday.

The move comes one month after the Board advised Delta diverters, including BBID, that pre-1914 and post-1914 (without Term 91) water right holders in the Legal Delta would not be curtailed this year.

“The State Water Board pulled a 180, reversing course without warning,” said BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro. “On behalf of our growers, we’re incredibly disappointed that we were misled into believing the District’s pre-1914 water right would not be curtailed. Thousands of acres of crops in our service area – some just days away from harvest – are now at risk of rotting in the fields.”

In addition, BBID provides the sole source of water to Mountain House, a growing community of more than 28,000 people near the City of Tracy.

“The Board’s hasty, unannounced and contrary action now puts Mountain House in an extremely difficult position,” Kagehiro continued. “We urge the Board to immediately approve Mountain House’s petition for a human health and safety exemption so we can continue, at the very least, providing water supplies to serve thousands of families.”

The post-1914 water right serving BBID’s West Side Service Area is included in the curtailment.  In a proactive move, the District’s Board of Directors previously ratified a 50% water delivery schedule effective in July, conserving available water supplies. The West Side Service Area receives supplemental water supply from the City of Tracy.

In anticipation of possible curtailment, BBID has sought additional water supplies, including potential water transfers and the use of groundwater wells within the District’s service area. The District will continue to rely on its pre-existing alternate supplies while continuing to look for more.

Furthermore, BBID’s team of legal, engineering, and hydrology experts will mobilize to protect the District’s water rights, as well as address significant flaws in the methodology used by the Board to determine curtailments in the Delta.

“We will leave no stone unturned,” Kagehiro said. “Crops and livelihoods are at stake.”

BBID Water Supply Update: June 2022

Byron, CA (June 15, 2022)The Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) has an important water supply update for its customers. On June 7, the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Water Rights issued an update earlier this month advising that, witha the exception of junior water rights with Term-91, water rights in the Legal Delta will not be curtailed.  Specifically, the notice states in pertinent part the following:

  1. No curtailment of rights and claims within the Legal Delta. In coordination with the Office of the Delta Watermaster, Division of Water Rights staff are in the process of updating several technical assumptions regarding water unavailability within the Legal Delta. Pending completion of those updates, rights and claims within the Legal Delta will not be curtailed pursuant to the Drought Emergency Regulation.  Term 91 curtailments will continue to apply to rights within the Legal Delta containing Term 91.  (Bold in the original.)

All BBID water rights, including the pre-1914 water right that provides for much of the District’s service area, are in the Legal Delta.  The post-1914 water right now held by BBID (formerly, the West Side Irrigation post-1914 water right) does not contain Term 91.

BBID’s team of legal, engineering, and hydrology experts continue to work with Board staff to resolve latent defects with the Water Unavailability Methodology for the Delta Watershed used by the Board to determine water unavailability in the Legal Delta.

West Side Service Area: This area, formerly the West Side Irrigation District, is served by a post-1914 junior water right. This water right is currently not curtailed. However, to be prudent and in anticipation of possible curtailments, the BBID Board of Directors ratified a 50% water delivery schedule for the West Side Service Area, effective July.

Central Valley Project (CVP) Service Area: Currently, South-of-Delta CVP contractors including BBID have a 0% allocation. In April, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reduced the initial 25% M&I allocation to Public Health & Safety.

BBID continues to seek alternative water supplies and, when necessary, vigorously defend its water rights. The District will provide water supply updates as conditions change.

Water Supply Update: April 2022

Byron, CA (April 15, 2022) – As dry conditions persist across California, the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) is establishing a regular water supply update to keep its customers informed.

  • Pre-1914 (Senior) Water Right: Currently, BBID’s pre-1914 senior water right is not curtailed. That senior water right provides for reliable water deliveries across much of the District’s service area. However, it is anticipated that curtailments could occur this summer due to drought conditions.
  • West Side Service Area: This area, formerly the West Side Irrigation District, is served by a post-1914 junior water right. This water right is currently not curtailed. Again, it is anticipated that curtailments could occur this summer.
  • Central Valley Project (CVP) Service Area: Currently, South-of-Delta CVP contractors including BBID have a 0% allocation. Earlier this month, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reduced the initial 25% M&I allocation to Public Health & Safety.

BBID will continue to seek alternative water supplies and, when necessary, vigorously defend its water rights. The District and its expert consultants are engaged with the State Water Resources Control Board and the Delta Watermaster to help refine the methodology that provides the basis for water right curtailments.

In the coming weeks and months, the District will provide water supply updates as conditions change.

LVE Project – Monthly Update

Below is the monthly newsletter for the Los Vaqueros Reservoir Expansion Project.

Partner News Letter LVE - March 4 2022

Background: In October 2021, the Los Vaqueros Reservoir Expansion Project (Project) passed a significant milestone in officially filing agreements needed to form a Joint Powers Authority. This important milestone puts a group of Local Agency Partners one step closer to Project implementation.

The Byron-Bethany Irrigation District is a member agency of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, a Local Agency Project Partner.

Los Vaqueros Reservoir is an off-stream reservoir that was originally built by Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) in 1998. The original reservoir capacity was 100,000 acre-feet and in 2012, CCWD completed the first phase of expansion to hold 160,000 acre-feet.

Expanding Los Vaqueros to a new capacity of 275,000 acre-feet and adding new conveyance facilities will provide environmental, water supply reliability, operational flexibility, water quality and recreational benefits. Those benefits earned the expansion $470 million of the $2.7 billion in water storage investments approved by voters when Proposition 1 passed. The remainder of the project costs will be covered by federal and local partners.

Dwindling Snowpack, Regulations Lead to Zero CVP Water for Growers

Sacramento, CA (February 23, 2022) – On the heels of record-low precipitation in January and February, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) issued an initial water supply allocation of 0% for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID).

Exceptionally dry conditions have returned to the Sierra after record snowfall in late fall and early winter. The statewide snowpack is dwindling, CVP reservoirs are low, and the long-range forecast promises little relief.

“The allocation announcement is disappointing because it represents another significant challenge for our growers in the District’s CVP Service Area,” said BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro. “We understand Reclamation is constrained not only by Mother Nature, but by regulatory obligations imposed by the State Water Resources Control Board that we believe disproportionally and ineffectively prioritize the needs of the environment over our state’s food supply.”

“This is the fourth time in the last decade that South-of-Delta CVP contractors have received a 0% allocation,” said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore. “As we have said time and again, the lack of available water during times of drought underscores the need to invest in our aging water systems and enact collaborative policy to ensure a sustainable water supply. If this is our new normal, we must adapt.”

The District is joining its local, regional and state partners in exploring regulatory solutions that balance the needs of California’s cities, agriculture and environment, while simultaneously pursuing additional water supplies for growers in BBID’s CVP Service Area.

Reclamation also announced an initial 25% allocation for its South-of-Delta Municipal and Industry (M&I) contractors, including those in the BBID’s service area. Reclamation will continue to evaluate hydrologic conditions as the year progresses and may announce changes as conditions warrant.