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.”

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District Welcomes Progress In Possible Detachment Process in Discovery Bay

Byron, CA (December 8, 2015) – Following open dialogue with Byron Bethany Irrigation District (BBID), officials with the Discovery Bay Community Services District (DBCSD) are moving forward with the process of possible detachment of overlapping service areas. Portions of the Town where BBID has been receiving property tax revenue has been within BBID for over a century and received a surface water supply under the District’s pre-1914 water right.

At its regular board meeting of December 2nd, DBCSD unanimously passed a non-binding resolution in support of the detachment process. The action followed a November 23rd BBID board meeting, during which BBID’s Board of Directors met directly with DBSCD and officials with the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, encouraging all interested parties to speak openly and make positive progress toward a resolution.

“We appreciate that DBSCD has taken a clear, public position on this matter,” said BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro. “We recognize the need for honesty and transparency regarding this complex and important issue. In the weeks and and months ahead, we will continue building common ground to reach a careful, reasonable and responsible solution.”

Contra Costa County Supervisors on November 17th voted unanimously, 5-0, to ask the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) in San Joaquin County to consider the detachment of parts of Discovery Bay from BBID. Contra Costa County’s sudden pursuit of detachment surprised and concerned BBID’s Board of Directors, as it remains uncertain whether detachment could compromise the future water supply of Discovery Bay.

“Although detachment will cause a sizable water rate increase for BBID customers within Contra Costa County’s agricultural core and eastern Alameda County, the District understands the position taken by the Town of Discovery Bay”, said BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore.

The matter rests in the hands of LAFCO, the agency responsible for coordinating changes to local government boundaries, including annexations, consolidations and detachments. It is specifically charged by law with encouraging the orderly formation and development of all the governmental agencies within its jurisdiction.

“This process still requires a great deal of thought and measured discussion between all stakeholders,” said BBID Board Vice President Tim Maggiore. “We look forward to LAFCO’s thorough examination as we move toward a decision that satisfies not only BBID’s constituents, but our neighboring agency’s.”