Byron-Bethany Irrigation District Issues Statement Regarding Draft Ruling to Dismiss Complaint

Statement from Byron-Bethany Irrigation District regarding today’s dismissal of the ACL complaint:

“We are pleased the State Water Resources Control Board finally did the right thing in dismissing the enforcement action brought against Byron-Bethany Irrigation District last July. This day is a long time coming. We maintained all along that we were legally exercising our pre-1914 senior water right. We are thankful the State Water Board’s Hearing Team found multiple, significant discrepancies in the case against us. We will review this ruling in greater detail with our legal team and look forward to putting this chapter behind us.”

Detachment, Legal Battle Spur Water Rate Increase

Byron, CA (May 17, 2016) – For the first time in more than two decades, Byron-Bethany Irrigation District’s (BBID) Board of Directors voted Tuesday to authorize an increase to the District’s uniform, agricultural water rate. The move comes in the midst of BBID’s ongoing legal battle with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to protect BBID’s senior water rights, at the same time the District stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in property tax revenue.

“We know it will be difficult for our farmers and ranchers to shoulder this additional burden,” said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore. “BBID has been able to keep the same, low rate in place for more than 20 years, but recent events made today’s action unavoidable to protect the financial stability of the District.”

Earlier this year, Contra Costa County moved to pursue detachment of portions of the town of Discovery Bay from the BBID service area, an area that generated $685,000 in annual property revenue. BBID expects to lose half of that revenue in 2016, and the full amount by 2017. Meanwhile, the SWRCB’s attack on BBID’s water rights has resulted in an expensive – but critically necessary – legal fight to protect the pre-1914 water rights that provide the foundation for the District’s reliable water deliveries its growers depend on.

Tuesday’s vote at the end of a public hearing concluded the Proposition 218 process that began with a cost of service study by an independent rate consultant. Based on the consultant’s recommendations, the Board authorized a 2016 agricultural water rate no higher than $102 per acre foot, but ultimately decided to set this year’s rate at $65 per acre foot, opting to use financial reserves to soften the blow to BBID’s growers. The previous rate was $20 per acre foot. The change will take effect on June 1st.

In other business, the Board announced general counsel Dan Kelly is moving on at the end of this month, leaving private practice to join a public agency. Kelly was presented with a framed resolution recognizing his dedicated service the past several years.

“Dan’s tireless passion and unparalleled legal expertise will be missed,” said BBID Board of Directors President Russell Kagehiro. “Right now, we are fighting to protect our water rights – fighting for the very future of our District, and Dan has led that charge. For that, we will be forever grateful.”

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District Leaders Call Central Valley Project Allocation “Absurd”

Byron, CA (April 1, 2016) – Prayers for rain were finally answered across Northern California, but farmers in Byron-Bethany Irrigation District’s (BBID) Central Valley Project (CVP) service area near Tracy were dealt another potentially catastrophic blow Friday. Despite above-average rainfall and a Sierra snowpack nearing normal levels, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced a 5% allocation for south-of-Delta CVP contractors.

“Today’s paltry allocation announcement is nothing short of absurd,” said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore. “It is the result of rigid and ultimately ineffective environmental regulations that prioritize fish while punishing the people provide food for California and the rest of the country.”

Growers and ranchers in BBID’s 6000-acre, CVP service area in San Joaquin County have already struggled to endure three straight years of zero-percent supply from the CVP, forced into purchasing supplemental water at skyrocketing, unsustainable rates for the very survival of their multi-generational family farms. An El Nino winter brought desperately-needed precipitation and rekindled hope of an improved allocation this year.

“While a 5% allocation is better than nothing, it will ultimately do little to avert the disaster facing our farmers whose livelihoods are being threatened, not only by the drought, but by failed regulations and crippling mismanagement,” Gilmore added. “Holding water back from our communities has provided no measurable benefit to the fisheries.”

BBID leaders joined the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA) and the Westlands Water District (WWD), in expressing pointed criticism of the Bureau’s allocation announcement. The SLDWA said in a news release it was “furious,” while WWD released a statement calling the allocation “grossly inadequate.” Meanwhile, in late March, Senator Diane Feinstein penned a letter urging President Obama to direct maximized Delta pumping allowable under the law, citing the highest flows on the Sacramento River in four years.

However, the latest data on Friday showed that of the more than 40,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) flowing into the Delta, more than 37,000 CFS – or 95% of the water flowing into the Delta – is being sent out to the ocean.

“At some point, logic and reason must rule the day,” Gilmore said. “We understand the need to carefully evaluate our water supply given the drought, but hoarding water for fish while sacrificing our crops and our farmers flies in the face of good governance and common sense. The future of our communities is at stake.”