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Obama signs California’s massive water bill

Agriculture - California, California Rivers, California water, Federal gov & land grabs

Obama signs California’s massive water bill, but Trump will determine its future

McClatchy DC

President Barack Obama on Friday quietly signed and bequeathed to President-elect Donald Trump a massive infrastructure bill designed to control floods, fund dams and deliver more water to farmers in California’s Central Valley.

While attempting to mollify critics’ concerns over potential harm to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Obama signed the $12 billion bill in a distinctly low-key act. The still-controversial California provisions were wrapped inside a package stuffed with politically popular projects, ranging from Sacramento-area levees to clean-water aid for beleaguered Flint, Michigan.

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Opinion: State’s water grab will devastate jobs, economy in Merced

Agriculture - California, California Rivers, California water, State gov

OPINION: State’s water grab will devastate jobs, economy in Merced

Merced Sun-Star

Our community’s way of life is under direct attack by Sacramento’s plan to take our water and send it to the Bay-Delta for the benefit of others.

The State Water Resources Control Board’s own document describes the resulting damage to our community as an “unavoidable impact.” This is narrow and unacceptable thinking. The Merced Irrigation District is fully prepared to protect and defend our community and water rights on the Merced River. But we believe there is a better way.

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Mike Dunbar: Would Times like some facts with that Kool-Aid?

Agriculture - California, Air, Climate & Weather, California Rivers, California water, CORRUPTION, Salmon and fish, Water, Resources & Quality

PNP comment: Wow, this is a great article and parallels the same knowledge we here in Siskiyou have been touting — and being ignored by the Greenies and guvmunt agency bureaucrats. Worth the read, it is! — Editor Liz Bowen

Modesto Bee

December 2, 2016

In reading a recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times, we just about choked on our Cheerios.

One of our nation’s truly great newspapers, with inspiring editorial writers, the Times noted that California is more than merely lines on a map. Invoking the “California condor, the giant sequoia, the golden trout,” the writer implied that farmers in Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties have lost sight of what it means to be Californians. Since we’re all in this state together, folks living around here should be happy to give up more of the water that flows through our communities to save salmon.

If we get rid of all those lines, how can anyone justify pumping billions of gallons of water hundreds of miles from the rivers where it once flowed, away from the ocean to which it was headed, through deserts, over mountains, and into giant tubs for the future use of people who’ve never heard of the Tuolumne River?

What the editorial didn’t mention was wading into the Tuolumne to count spawning salmon carcasses; visiting the hatchery where millions come to life on the Merced; spending millions of dollars pushing around gravel in the Stanislaus to make rock beds suitable for salmon eggs. Don’t know how the Times missed that.

So where did the Times’ editorial writers get their information? We’re guessing from trusted sources in the environmental community. That’s fine; we talk to them, too. We just recognize they’ve got a point of view and an agenda.

If the Times had talked to anyone here – including the scientists who work most closely with the thousands of salmon that swim up our rivers each year – they might have gotten a different story. They might have learned that the salmon here are no different genetically from the 720 million tons of salmon harvested each year. That the number of salmon native to our rivers is actually zero. That any salmon you find on the San Joaquin or its tributaries was born in a hatchery. The fish the environmentalists are trying to save are already extinct.

Like so many others, the Times decried the harm farming does to the state’s “$1 billion fishing industry.” But according to the state, the best commercial salmon catch in this century was worth $15 million – less than half the value of the crab fishery.

There’s more. The Times blamed the drought and agriculture for catastrophically low salmon counts – disregarding the role played by state officials, who released too much cold water from Lake Shasta at the wrong time last year, dooming thousands of salmon and trout. Or the federal officials who insisted on releasing 35,000 acre-feet of cold water from New Melones to push juvenile salmon and steelhead to the ocean; but the fish refused to go, waiting until it actually rained to swim out.

The Times has millions of readers; here’s part of what it told them: “In this sixth year of drought, the agriculture industry and its supporters have pushed hard for diverting every scarce drop of water flowing down streams and rivers to orchards and field crops instead of, as they often describe it, allowing good water to be flushed downriver, through the Delta, into the San Francisco Bay and out to sea.”

Except that’s not true. First, virtually every resident of this area wants to see vibrant, beautiful rivers flowing through our communities. Hundreds volunteer to clean the riverbanks, plant trees, clear floodplains and many make donations. Second, our irrigation districts, county officials and local legislators quietly negotiated a deal to provide an additional 300,000 acre-feet of water for environmental purposes on top of the 20 to 30 percent already flowing to the ocean. But that offer – a year in the making – was ignored as it moved up the ladder.

Now our region is in a life-and-death struggle with the state over a plan that will double the water flowing away from one of California’s poorest regions – all for roughly 1,100 additional salmon. Did the Times’ environmental sources mention any of that?

As much as we admire the Times’ prize-winning editorial writers, they shouldn’t allow themselves to be spoon-fed by anyone.

The Public Policy Institute of California’s water experts offered an interesting idea Friday through The Sacramento Bee. Instead of building twin tunnels to carry the Sacramento River beneath the Delta, Gov. Jerry Brown should build just one. Two 40-foot-wide tunnels can siphon off virtually all of the Sacramento River; just one can’t. Skeptics have long noted that the Sacramento provides 80 percent of the Delta’s water, and it’s impossible to provide more reliable water deliveries south and simultaneously save the Delta. Eliminate one tunnel, the PPIC says, and eliminate that skepticism.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla of Restore the Delta liked the idea. But in her enthusiasm, she took aim at the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers – echoing the state’s demand for 50 percent flows. She didn’t mention that 95 percent of the Delta has been channelized, leading to the demise of the Delta smelt. Not a word about tearing down levees to allow sinking islands to flood and create more habitat. Nothing about getting rid of striped bass that feast on smelt and juvenile salmon.

Apparently it’s less about restoring the Delta than about getting more water. It always is.

Read it here: http://www.modbee.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/mike-dunbar/article118612498.html#storylink=cpy

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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Shasta water release plan has no cutbacks to farmers – for now

Agriculture - California, Air, Climate & Weather, California Rivers, California water, Dams other than Klamath


June 29, 2016 3:51 PM


Decision a victory for Central Valley growers

Federal fisheries officials reverse their stance

Compromise still expected to save Chinook salmon

 After weeks of uncertainty and pressure from members of Congress, federal officials on Wednesday announced a plan for managing water releases from California’s largest reservoir this summer in a manner that will not involve cutbacks in farm water deliveries – at least if all goes as hoped.

For more than a month, federal agencies have battled behind the scenes over how to balance the needs of California farms and two endangered fish species whose populations have been decimated by years of drought and environmental decline.

Federal fisheries officials – who hold considerable sway over how the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation operates Shasta Dam and other federal reservoirs – had been weighing whether to hold back substantial volumes of water at Shasta Lake into the summer to protect juvenile winter-run Chinook salmon. A companion proposal called for letting more water flow to the Pacific Ocean through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta during summer, in hopes of bolstering survival rates for another species teetering on the brink of extinction, the Delta smelt.

Both plans met with forceful opposition from Central Valley farmers, who rely heavily on Shasta water deliveries for irrigation. The proposals would have meant another year of curtailed deliveries during key portions of the growing season.

Instead, the Shasta plan released Wednesday marked a victory for farm interests and a significant about-face for fisheries officials. Rather than the more drastic proposal under discussion, the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reverted to a model for operating Shasta Dam that stays the course for giving farmers more water deliveries than in recent years.

Agency officials said their compromise plan should still result in ample cool water to keep endangered winter-run Chinook from dying in the Sacramento River. The bureau will be required to closely monitor temperatures in Shasta Lake to ensure that cold-water releases are possible through summer and fall. If they determine that Shasta is too warm, they will cut back releases to ensure there is enough cool water for later in the year.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article86742377.html#emlnl=Morning_Newsletter#storylink=cpy

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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‘Waters’ rule affects many Yolo County farmers

Agriculture - California, Air, Climate & Weather, California Rivers, California water, Clean Water ACT - EPA, Federal gov & land grabs, Water rights, Water, Resources & Quality

Daily Democrat

California farmers and ranchers face much uncertainty about the new Clean Water Act rule by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers that became effective in recent months.

The uncertainty grew, after a federal judge in North Dakota granted an injunction sought by 13 states to prevent the rule from taking effect, and as specialists finalized work on a map that shows as much as 95 percent of California’s land area might fall under the rule’s jurisdiction.

Known alternately as the Waters of the U.S. Rule or the Clean Water Rule, the provision aims to regulate small streams, tributaries and wetlands. Opponents of the rule say it greatly expands federal jurisdiction over many landscape features found on private lands — including farm, ranch and forest lands — and may ultimately require additional permits and increase areas that would be placed under restricted use.

Kari Fisher, California Farm Bureau Federation associate counsel, said that soon after the federal court injunction was granted, the EPA released a statement saying the injunction applies only to those 13 states involved in the North Dakota litigation. While some have interpreted the injunction as applying to all states, Fisher said the rule remains in effect for the 37 states not involved in the litigation, including California.

“For California, EPA’s position is that the rule is effective and enforceable,” Fisher said. “Farmers and ranchers need to be aware of the rule’s potential impacts to their farming operations.”

San Joaquin County winegrape grower Brad Goehring said the waters of the U.S. rule is damaging to agriculture.

“Most everything is now considered a water of the U.S., and permitting for farmers will be too costly. This is basically criminalizing farming,” Goehring said. “I think it is the biggest violation of private property rights in the history of the United States, because the rule is so broad and it encompasses everything.”

The new rule has the potential to qualify up to 97 percent of Yolo County’s 653,450 acres, according to the Yolo County Farm Bureau. Some 60,896 acres is winthin a 100-foot buffer, while an additional 527,697 acres lies within a 1,500-foot buffer. That makes 631,094 acres which could potentially be affected.



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Feds scramble to avoid another mass salmon die-off in Sacramento River

Biologists for hire, California Rivers, California water, CORRUPTION, Dams other than Klamath, Federal gov & land grabs, Salmon and fish

PNP comment: We in Siskiyou County have exposed fraud and flat-out lies to bureaucrats in both state and federal agencies. Using incorrect models and creating the science needed to support new regulations is now standard operating procedure for many government agencies. How to stop it? We haven’t figured that out yet! — Editor Liz Bowen

A year ago, California lost nearly an entire generation of endangered salmon because the water releases from Shasta Dam flowed out warmer than federal models had predicted. Thousands of salmon eggs and newly hatched fry baked to death in a narrow stretch of the Sacramento River near Redding that for decades has served as the primary spawning ground for winter-run Chinook salmon.

Earlier this year, federal scientists believed they had modeled a new strategy to avoid a similar die-off, only to realize their temperature monitoring equipment had failed and Shasta’s waters once again were warming faster than anticipated.

In the months since, in what is essentially an emergency workaround, they’ve revised course, sharply curtailing flows out of Shasta. The hope is that they reserve enough of the reservoir’s deep, cold water pool to sustain this year’s juvenile winter-run Chinook. But it’s meant sacrificing water deliveries to hundreds of Central Valley farmers who planted crops in expectation of bigger releases; and draining Folsom reservoir – the source of drinking water for much of suburban Sacramento – to near-historic lows to keep salt water from intruding on the Delta downstream.

In spite of all this, another generation of wild winter-run Chinook salmon could very well die.

For all the focus on fallowed farm fields and withered lawns in California’s protracted drought, native fish have suffered the most dire consequences. The lack of snowmelt, warmer temperatures and persistent demand for limited freshwater supplies have left many of the state’s reservoirs – and, by extension, its streams and rivers – hotter than normal. The changing river conditions have threatened the existence of 18 native species of fish, the winter-run Chinook among them.

Chinook are called king salmon by anglers for a reason. They can grow to more than 3 feet in length, and the biggest can top more than 50 pounds. Decades ago, before dams were built blocking their traditional spawning habitat, vast schools of these silver-sided fish with blue-green backs migrated from the ocean to spawn and die in the tributaries that feed the Sacramento River in runs timed with the seasons.

The largest run that remains in the Sacramento River system is the fall run, which survives almost entirely due to hatchery breeding programs below the Shasta, Oroville and Folsom dams. The winter run, in contrast, is still largely reared in the wild, laying its eggs in the gravel beds below Shasta’s concrete walls. Their numbers have dwindled in the face of predators and deteriorating river conditions. The federal government declared the run endangered in 1994, and it has flirted with extinction ever since.

Following last year’s failed federal efforts, only about 5 percent of the winter-run Chinook survived long enough to begin to migrate out to sea. The species has a three-year spawning cycle, meaning that three consecutive fish kills could lead to the end of the winter run as a wild species. One hatchery below Lake Shasta breeds winter-run Chinook in captivity.

Officials with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates both Shasta and Folsom dams, say they believe their emergency efforts at Shasta are working and they anticipate “some” winter-run Chinook will survive this year.

“We believe that we are on track,” said bureau spokesman Shane Hunt. “We are sitting in a much better place today than we were a year ago today.”

Several biologists interviewed remain dubious. They note that preserving more cold water in Shasta has meant many stretches of the Sacramento River are warmer than they were last year. They worry that salmon eggs and fry will still die – only gradually instead of suddenly.

“We stand a pretty good chance of losing the wild cohort again this year, like we did last year,” said Peter Moyle, a UC Davis researcher and one of the nation’s leading fisheries biologists. “If we get lucky some of those fish will survive. We’re definitely pushing the population to its limits.”

Agricultural leaders, meanwhile, say there’s good reason to suspect the government models will again prove flawed and the fish will die despite the sacrifices farmers have made.

Rep. Jim Costa, a Democrat and third-generation farmer who represents a wide swath of the San Joaquin Valley, is among those who think there’s a good chance farmers have been punished for no benefit to the fish.

“That begs the question: What are we accomplishing?” Costa said. “We are in extreme drought conditions. … The water districts that I represent in the San Joaquin Valley have had a zero – zero – water allocation. … Over half a million acres have been fallowed … It just seems to defy common sense and logic.”

Some members of California’s fisheries industry also have lost confidence in the bureau, arguing the government has badly mismanaged its rivers. Beyond the very existence of a wild population of fish, they say, the government is risking millions of dollars for California’s economy and hundreds of fishing jobs – and a key source of locally caught seafood for markets and restaurants.

Two consecutive fish kills involving an endangered species could lead to more stringent regulation of commercial and recreational fishing. It’s a real possibility, state and federal fisheries regulators said, that salmon fishing could be severely restricted along much of California’s central coast and in the Sacramento River system next year.

Larry Collins, a commercial fisherman operating out of Pier 45 in San Francisco, said that in the fight over water, the fishing industry – and wild fish – lack the political clout compared with municipal and agricultural interests.

“I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve fought the battle for a long time, and I’ve watched the water stolen from the fish,” he said. “The fish are in tough shape because their water is growing almonds down in the valley. To me, it’s just outright theft of the people’s resource for the self-aggrandizement of a few, you know?”

“You got money you can buy anything,” he added. “You can buy extinction.”

Federal models prove faulty

On paper, the requirements for salvaging the winter-run Chinook seem fairly basic. The winter-run Chinook spawn from April to August. Juvenile fish swim downriver from July to March. If the water in the Sacramento River is too hot as the fry emerge from their eggs, they die. Warm water also makes it more difficult for the juveniles to survive their swim downstream to the ocean.

But in practice, there are broad variables to keeping the river cool, involving snowmelt, heat waves, water depths and the temperatures of the tributaries entering the reservoir, as well as conditions in the river downstream.

A year ago, federal and state officials had a plan to keep temperatures in key portions of the Sacramento River below 56 degrees; temperatures above 56 can trigger a die-off. The models built by the Bureau of Reclamation indicated operators could release large amounts of water from Lake Shasta while still maintaining a cool temperature, easing the pressure on farms and cities. According to their calculations, the water would be cold enough at key points in the Sacramento River to ensure survival of 30 percent of the salmon run.

But the models were wrong. The Bureau of Reclamation essentially ran out of cold water reserves in Lake Shasta, limiting its ability to control temperatures in the Sacramento River. Average daily river temperatures rose well above levels needed by salmon to survive. The 5 percent that did transition from eggs to fry were left to navigate to the ocean in tough conditions.

“That 5 percent – I guarantee you they didn’t make it down through the Delta,” said Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.

Fast forward to this year, and another plan gone awry.

During the spring, government officials again said they would keep winter-run Chinook alive by maintaining water temperatures below 56 degrees. The State Water Resources Control Board signed off on their plan in mid-May.

Only weeks later, Bureau of Reclamation officials told the state that their temperature monitoring equipment wasn’t working. In fact, they said, temperatures in Shasta were warmer than anticipated – and dramatic intervention would be needed to keep winter-run Chinook alive. They asked the board to consider a new plan and immediately restricted flows from Shasta.

The state water board took up the issue at a meeting on June 16. Members of the board bemoaned their lack of good choices and later adopted a plan that left no one happy. Water releases would be curtailed out of Lake Shasta. Folsom Lake would be drawn to historic lows. Deliveries to farmers would be reduced.

And, despite those measures, the average daily temperature in the Sacramento River would rise to 57 degrees on most days and 58 degrees on some days, according to the government models. That’s too high a temperature for all winter-run Chinook to survive, but the Bureau of Reclamation, in documents supporting the change, said its modeling predicted roughly 20 percent of the fish would survive to early adulthood. That would be lower than a typical year – but not a disaster.

But are this year’s models more accurate? Already this summer, average daily temperatures at a key point in the Sacramento River have risen above 58 degrees on seven separate occasions, including several times in late August, state data show.

Federal officials said their models anticipated some temperature spikes, and noted that on each occasion so far, they were able to release cold water into the river and bring temperatures back down.

“It can have an effect” on fish, said Hunt, the bureau spokesman, of river temperatures above 58 degrees. But, he added, “That temperature is not a lethal temperature immediately.”

Jon Rosenfield, a biologist with the Bay Institute, disagreed, saying that many winter-run salmon likely were doomed by the temperature spikes. He offered the analogy of a chicken egg: “If you take an egg and dip it in boiling water, you are jeopardizing its ability to develop into a chick,” he said. “The longer you do that and the hotter the temperatures, the less likely it is to develop.”

Another concern is whether there is still enough cold water in Shasta to keep river temperatures low into the fall. Hunt says yes – that the government projects that Shasta will contain 350,000 acre-feet of cold water, below 56 degrees, at month’s end, far more than in 2014.

Rosenfield expressed doubts that the bureau is in position to do detailed calculations on its cold water supply. “They are way behind in anything using modern technology in measuring how much cold water they have,” Rosenfield said.

Scientists won’t know whether this year’s plan worked until fish surveys are completed in the winter. In a worst-case scenario, the government could rely even more heavily on its hatchery to sustain winter-run Chinook. Rosenfield called that option a “Band-Aid,” noting it would not preclude the loss of the fish as a wild species. Hatchery fish, he said, tend to come from a limited gene pool and may also have difficulty surviving in warm water.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article34197762.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article34197762.html#storylink=cpy

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Sacramento County Supervisors: Marijuana Cultivation is Water Waste

Agriculture - California, California Rivers, California water, State gov

California Political Review.com

This is a terrible choice for the Left. They want to stop “water waste” but do not want to stop the illegal growing of marijuana. What to do? We know that the growing of marijuana takes more water than the growing of almonds. Marijuana growers do not buy their water—they steal it. In the Yosemite area the major crime is the theft of water.

“”According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, a single marijuana plant uses an average of six gallons of water per day during the growing cycle,” said Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan, who introduced the proposal. In light of the state’s ongoing drought, she said it’s important to curb that waste.

Note the opposition to growing marijuana has nothing to do with it being illegal or a dangerous drug. Opposition is based on water use, not the criminal act. So, I guess the Sacramento Board of Supervisors have no problem with crimes being committed. We also know that since they protect illegal aliens from law enforcement. Why should any of us obey the law if elected officials don’t care?

Sacramento County Supervisors: Marijuana Cultivation is Water Waste

California County News, 07/20/2015

Violators of Sacramento County’s regulations on indoor marijuana cultivation will face even steeper fines following a vote by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. That’s because the board has decided to revise the county’s water code and declare marijuana cultivation a form of water waste.

“According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, a single marijuana plant uses an average of six gallons of water per day during the growing cycle,” said Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan, who introduced the proposal. In light of the state’s ongoing drought, she said it’s important to curb that waste.

The rule goes into effect in 30 days. Those who cultivate more than the legal limit of nine plants could face additional fines of up to $500 per day. That’s $500 for water waste on top of the existing $500 fines for violating the cultivation rules.

Some residents complained that the changes unfairly target medical marijuana users.

“So if you’re going to regulate cannabis cultivators, you should find a way to regulate other things because they could have a greenhouse and could be growing all kinds of plants,” said Marriah Smith, who grows marijuana inside her home.

The code applies to households under the Sacramento County Water Agency area jurisdiction. Most cities within Sacramento County have ordinances of their own governing marijuana cultivation. Outdoor cultivation is already banned in unincorporated areas under restrictions approved last year.

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It’s my water — my grandfather paid for it, says California farmer

Agriculture - California, Air, Climate & Weather, California Rivers, California water, Water rights, Water, Resources & Quality

California issued its first cease-and-desist order on Thursday, July 16, 2015, telling an irrigation district to stop pumping water under this year’s tightened drought regulations. Some senior water rights holders are challenging California regulators authority to tell them to stop drawing water from rivers running dry due to the drought. Associated Press file photo by Rich Pedroncelli

Posted: |

FRESNO >> California water regulators flexed their muscles by ordering a group of farmers to stop pumping from a branch of the San Joaquin River amid an escalating battle over how much power the state has to protect waterways that are drying up in the drought.

The State Water Resources Control Board issued the cease and desist order Thursday against an irrigation district in California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley that it said had failed to obey a previous warning to stop pumping. Hefty fines could follow.


The action against the West Side Irrigation District in Tracy could be the first of many as farmers, cities and corporations dig in to protect water rights that were secured long before people began flooding the West and have remained all but immune from mandatory curtailments.

“I’ve made investments as a farmer based on the rule of law,” said David Phippen, an almond grower in the South San Joaquin Irrigation District. “Now somebody’s changing the law that we depend on.”

Phippen said his grandfather paid a premium price in the 1930s for hundreds of acres because it came with nearly ironclad senior water rights.

Phippen said he takes those rights to the bank when he needs loans to replant almond orchards or install new irrigation lines. He fears that state officials are tampering with that time-tested system.

“In the water world, the pre-1914 rights were considered to be gold,” said Ed Casey, a water attorney who says the battle between the state water board and farmers “tests … the limitations on that piece of gold.”

Several irrigation districts have filed unresolved legal challenges to stop the curtailments demanded by the state.

Among them is the West Side Irrigation District, which claimed a victory in a ruling last week by a Sacramento judge who said the state’s initial order to stop pumping amounted to an unconstitutional violation of due process rights by not allowing hearings on the cuts.

Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang also indicated, however, that the water board can advise water rights holders to curtail use and fine them if the agency determines use exceeded the limit.

West Side is a small district with junior water rights, but the ruling also has implications for larger districts with senior rights.

West Side’s attorney Steven Herum said the order issued Thursday was prompted after the judge sided with his client.

“It is clear that the cease-and-desist order is retaliatory,” Herum said. “It’s intended to punish the district.”

Water board attorney Andrew Tauriainen disputed that contention, saying the state’s investigation began months ago and was slowed by the district’s recent lawsuit.

“A reasonable person could look at West Side Irrigation’s lawsuit and infer that it was timed to thwart the enforcement action that West Side knew was coming,” Tauriainen said.

Even if the state prevails in its push for curtailments, it would face manpower and equipment challenges trying to ensure that farmers in far-flung rural areas don’t illegally divert water.

The state has just 23 inspectors who have performed 250 field visits since May, when the state started to send more than 9,000 letters informing farmers and large water users of low flowing rivers and streams, said Kathy Mrowka, the state’s water rights enforcement manager.

Meanwhile, courts must sort out whether the state has the power to tell farmers what they can do with water claimed before the government got involved in 1914.

Buzz Thompson, a water rights expert at Stanford Law School, expects California to prevail in the fight to pursue its unprecedented water cuts because courts have consistently expanded its authority.

“It’s only when you get into a really serious drought that you finally face the question,” he said.

California is an anomaly among Western states in the way it treats water rights. Thompson said other states use widespread meters and remote sensors to measure consumption or don’t provide special status to those with property next to natural waterways.

“In any other state, this wouldn’t be a question,” he said.

California rights holders are going to have to abide by more strict measurement requirements starting next year after fighting several attempts to overhaul the rules for decades, said Andy Sawyer, a longtime attorney at the water board.

“They long thought it’s nobody else’s business,” said Lester Snow, executive director of the California Water Foundation, which advocates for better measurement of water consumption to improve management.



Nirappil reported from Sacramento, California.

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Court decision finds water districts were deprived of their water rights by bureaucratic govenment agencies

Agriculture - California, Air, Climate & Weather, California Rivers, California water, Lawsuits, Liberty

PNP comment: This is great news ! — Editor Liz Bowen

News from Pacific Legal Foundation

July 20, 2015

It’s a block-buster ruling for water rights and property rights, and Pacific Legal Foundation played a pivotal “behind-the-scenes” role to help make it happen.

A decision just issued by the Superior Court in Sacramento grants a preliminary injunction to four water districts that were issued curtailment (cease diversion) letters by the State Water Resources Control Board in May and June of this year. The four districts — Westside Irrigation District, Central Delta Water Agency, South Delta Water Agency, and the Woods Irrigation Company — argued that the letters deprived them of the use of their water rights in violation of the due process clause because the letters were issued without a prior hearing.

PLF is not directly involved in the case, but there’s no doubt we played a strong and powerful role in achieving this positive outcome. The trial court relied heavily on the 2014 decision in PLF’s Duarte v. Corps of Engineers case, in which the federal district court ruled that John Duarte could go to court to challenge the Corps “cease and desist” letter that ordered him to stop farming. Just like John Duarte, the water districts here have a right under the Due Process Clause to a hearing before their rights are taken away.

This state court decision is great news for California water right holders and property owners generally. It extends the Duarte holding from the single cease and desist letter individually addressed to Duarte and specifically identifying Duarte’s property, to form letters that the Water Board sent to hundreds of senior water right owners across California.

The pain of California’s drought is bad enough without regulators, acting under emergency regulations adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board, trying to pull a fast one to outright seize water rights. Drought or no drought, bureaucrats will have to answer to the rule of law. No organization is more determined to protect water rights and our constitutional liberties than Pacific Legal Foundation.

Thanks for your support. We hope you see that it is having a profound, and positive impact, in rescuing liberty from coast to coast.

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Judge in drought-hit California blocks water cut orders for some farmers

Agriculture - California, California Rivers, California water, State gov

By Victoria Cavaliere


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California regulators violated the rights of some farmers by demanding mandatory water cutbacks without giving them a prior hearing, a state judge ruled on Friday.

California is in the fourth year of a catastrophic drought that has cost its farm sector billions, and prompted the state’s first-ever mandatory cutbacks in urban water use.

Sacramento Superior Court Shelleyanne Chang issued a temporary order restraining the state from punishing four Central Valley districts, which includes dozens of farmers, for disregarding curtailment orders imposed to help conserve water, court records show.

Chang found the State Water Resources Control Board had violated their rights by ordering them to stop pumping from rivers and streams, to which they hold longstanding rights, without a “pre-deprivation hearing.”

The order could hinder regulators’ efforts to enforce water curtailment rules set this year for more than 9,000 holders of water rights, among them farmers growing crops such as olives, almonds, and cherries, the Sacramento Bee newspaper reported.

It was the first time in 40 years the state had moved to curtail the water rights of farmers and agencies whose claims date from before 1914, a group that is usually protected by their long-standing water rights.

Although Friday’s order covers only the four districts, the ruling could set a precedent and affect “everybody that received a curtailment order,” Sacramento water law attorney Stuart Somach told the paper.

The water board said it was reviewing the court order, but the ruling made clear regulators were still able to punish violators of the water code or illegal users of water.

Under the new rules, cities and towns must cut water use by a quarter, in a complicated regulatory system that requires some communities to cut back use by 36 percent but others as little as 4 percent.

“The Court has provided an opportunity for additional briefing on these issues, with a further hearing on the matter,” the board said in a statement.

Unauthorized diversions during the drought emergency can attract enhanced penalties of up to $1,000 per day and $2,500 per acre-foot of water diverted.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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