Byron-Bethany Irrigation District Honored with Statewide Water Award

Monterey, CA (May 10, 2017) – In recognition of its victorious, high-stakes stand to protect some of the oldest water rights in California, Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) was honored Wednesday with the 2017 ACWA (Association of California Water Agencies) Excellence in Water Leadership Award.

According to ACWA, the prestigious annual award recognizes those who make a “remarkable and visible contribution to the enhancement, protection or development of water resources in California.” The award was presented at ACWA’s Spring Conference in Monterey to BBID GM Rick Gilmore, and BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro, who accepted on behalf of BBID’s Board of Directors.

“On behalf of the entire District, we extend our deepest appreciation to ACWA for this incredible recognition,” Kagehiro said. “Our fight was not only for BBID, but for districts statewide, whose water rights provide the backbone of the communities we collectively serve.”

“Providing reliable water is the essence of our mission,” Gilmore said. “Though it wasn’t easy, we had no choice but to take the lead, navigating extreme regulatory uncertainty to defend the water supply that is rightfully ours.”

ACWA President Kathleen Tiegs, left, poses with BBID GM Rick Gilmore, center, and BBID Board President Russell Kagehiro.

Amidst harsh drought in 2015, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) issued unprecedented curtailments, and subsequently accused BBID of taking water when none was available, threatening a $5-plus million fine. BBID’s legal team fought back to preserve the District’s pre-1914 water rights, disproving the state’s arguments. The SWRCB eventually dismissed the case, securing a victory that would resonate throughout California’s water community.

“Byron-Bethany’s district staff and elected officials understood what was at stake for their community,” said ACWA President Kathleen Tiegs. “Their foresight, leadership and ability to build consensus in the face of extreme challenge kept water flowing for the residents, farmers, agricultural workers and families in their multi-county service area.”

BBID was nominated for the Excellence in Water Leadership Award by the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA), a collective of water agencies representing more than 2 million acres of 29 federal and exchange water service contractors.

“California is blessed to have thousands of dedicated water leaders who make our incredible water management system work so well,” said SLDMWA Executive Director Jason Peltier. “When leadership shines through most clearly is in a time of crisis, and Rick and his Board earned this award by leaning forward into the regulatory machine that now controls so much of our system. It took guts and commitment to secure justice. They did it.”

The 2017 Excellence in Water Leadership Award.

Demonstrating BBID’s deep connection to its community, numerous Letters of support were submitted on BBID’s behalf, including one from Gay Costa of the Mountain House School District.

“Mr. Gilmore, the BBID Board, and their staff went into the hearings with the weight of our farmers, ranchers’ community and this school on their shoulders,” Costa wrote. “The students witnessed a pillar of their community stand up for their right to carry on their family business and continue a culture deep in tradition and pride.”

Farmer Mike Sandhu also wrote in support of the District, “Without BBID’s stand, growers could have been stripped of our livelihoods and driven off our land that, for some of us, goes back generations. Their commitment secured our children’s futures. We have the water we need today – and tomorrow – thanks to BBID.”

Another letter was submitted by former BBID counsel and current in-house counsel for Placer County Water Agency, Dan Kelly.

“While, in certain circles, BBID’s decision to challenge the SWRCB’s curtailments was not popular – it was the courageous thing to do,” Kelly wrote. “Leaders are not people who simply fall in line. Leaders are people who make hard decisions; often unpopular, to achieve the right and just result. Rick Gilmore and the BBID Board of Directors did just that.”

As part of the Excellence in Water Leadership Award, BBID will be privileged to present a $5,000 charitable donation to a non-profit organization of their choosing that works toward the enhancement and protection of California’s water resources.

WATCH: Click below to see BBID accept the 2017 ACWA Excellence in Water Leadership Award!

Local Agencies Join to Expand Los Vaqueros Reservoir, Strengthen Regional Water Reliability

Brentwood, CA (November 1, 2021) – Last month, 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.

Transforming a local reservoir into a regional facility requires partnerships. Agencies in the Bay Area and Central Valley, serving urban areas, agricultural land and wildlife refuges, have come together to move this expansion forward. A critical step in forming this partnership is the creation of the Los Vaqueros Reservoir Joint Powers Authority (JPA).

The JPA establishes the governance of the Project among the partnering agencies and provides the organizational framework for Project design, construction, operation, maintenance and funding. JPA members will bring perspectives from the agency or agencies they represent and work collaboratively to meet the needs of all agencies involved. The JPA will hold its first official public meeting in mid-November.

Looking forward, the Project team is continuing work to secure the necessary permits, approvals and agreements to begin construction. At this point, construction is scheduled to begin in the winter of 2023.

More information about the JPA is available at www.losvaquerosjpa.com.

Additional project information is available below, including a monthly newsletter and project update summary.

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

BBID Files Petition for Reconsideration in Water Right Curtailments

Sacramento, CA (September 2, 2021) – Today, the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) filed a formal Petition for Reconsideration with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), regarding recent water right curtailments impacting thousands of water right holders, including BBID.

The full document is below.

09022021 BBID Petition for Reconsideration of Res 2021-0028 Curtailment Order - FINAL (00116239xD2C75).PDF

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 to Proposed Water Curtailments

The legal and technical team of Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) prepared the following comment letter in response to recent emergency regulations proposed by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), which would cut off senior and riparian water rights, including those that provide reliable water supplies to BBID’s customers.

The full letter is below.

7-29-21 Comments re Emergency Curtailment Regs w-Exh A

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

BBID Files Petition for Reconsideration on Water Right Curtailments

Sacramento, CA (July 15, 2021) – Today, the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) filed a formal Petition for Reconsideration with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).

The filing is in response to the post-1914 Water Right Curtailment Notices the SWRCB delivered to post-1914 water right holders, including BBID. The notices impact growers and M&I customers in BBID’s West Side Service Area, formerly the service area of the West Side Irrigation District. The two districts recently consolidated.

The full filing and exhibits are below.

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.”