California may fine water district $1.5 million

July 21, 2015

tap-waterA Northern California water district with water rights dating back to 1914 may face a record $1.5 million fine. [LA Times]

Regulators with the State Water Resources Control Board have drafted a proposal to fine the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District. If the irrigation district is hit with the fine, it would be the largest penalty received by a California agency with water rights dating back more than 100 years.

The State Water Resources Control Board accuses the Byron-Bethany district of illegally diverting more than 670 million gallons of water from a California Aqueduct intake channel. The alleged offense occurred in June over a period of nearly two weeks.

Just prior to the alleged illegal diversion, the water board sent a curtailment notice to a group of Central Valley water rights holders, some of whom have claims that date as far back as 1903. The order prohibited those with priority dates of 1903 or later from continuing to divert water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin watersheds and delta, citing insufficient supply.

The Byron-Bethany district has since joined a lawsuit against the water board over the curtailment order. Irrigation district officials contend the water board’s proposed fine is retaliation against them for participating in the lawsuit.

District officials have also released a statement saying the curtailment order would “strangle family farms, kill vital crops, compromise thousands of livestock, raise consumer prices, destroy thousands of jobs and ultimately eliminate the ability to farm the land.”

The Byron-Bethany district supplies water to 160 farmers, as well as to 15,000 residents in the master-planned community of Mountain House. The district consists of 45 square miles in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Joaquin counties

Water board prosecutors say it is highly likely other districts will also face fines in the coming weeks. The state board can fine water rights holder up to $1,000 a day and $2,500 per acre-foot of diverted water for violating curtailment orders.

The agency claims it could fine Byron-Bethany as much as $5 million.


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11 Comments

  1. Russ J says:

    Is Tom Selleck the CEO of Byron-Bethany Irrigation District?

    (-3) 5 Total Votes - 1 up - 4 down
  2. Pelican1 says:

    I love it when the government sues the government. Ultimately, we all lose.

    (1) 9 Total Votes - 5 up - 4 down
    • SLO_Johnny says:

      The farmers and other people who use the water would have to pay the fine if it is enforced.

      (6) 6 Total Votes - 6 up - 0 down
  3. isoslo says:

    It sickens me to think that un-elected government employees have this kind of power. I hope the water board gets slammed in court. Maybe a politician with morals and ethics will arise who will put the elected representatives in charge of water and air instead of granting so much power to people who only care about their own agendas.

    (11) 23 Total Votes - 17 up - 6 down
    • Slowerfaster says:

      A politician ? You’re wishing for a savior in a can of Coke ! Remember, it was the ‘politician’s’ that strung Jesus up on a cross !

      (-4) 8 Total Votes - 2 up - 6 down
  4. racket says:

    The fine itself flies in the face of the 6th Amendment.

    Like the APCD, the Water Board is set up to have the fox guarding the henhouse. There is no way it is just for the Water Board to make the rules, choose the fine amounts, and collect the fines.

    The Water Board is about to be taken down a notch. Let’s hope the reverb touches many of the governmental “boards” that have usurped judicial authority.

    (12) 22 Total Votes - 17 up - 5 down
    • SLO_Johnny says:

      The CA Supreme Court has basically said that these water resource boards have God-like powers. They are beyond the power of either the governor or the legislature. They can be created or destroyed but not controlled.

      (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
  5. Jorge Estrada says:

    The real problem is that the State has oversold water and is on the attack with an illegal diversion of their own. The best they can do is try to divert the attention from Gov stupidity to a real water rights owner. The State will not get one penny, that’s my forcast.

    (10) 20 Total Votes - 15 up - 5 down
  6. r0y says:

    Sounds like a S.L.A.P.P. in the face of the water district that dared challenge the central “authority” – gasp!

    Government leeches leeching off other government bodies. Wow. What’s new?

    (5) 25 Total Votes - 15 up - 10 down
    • kayaknut says:

      Yep, it would be fun to watch except that when everyone lawyers up the only person sure to loose is the taxpayers because we are footing everyone’s bill. Now if the cost for those lawyers came out of their own budgets without increases and the loosing party was held personally financially liable it might change things.

      (11) 23 Total Votes - 17 up - 6 down
  7. Black_Copter_Pilot says:

    This is too big a deal for those of us on the central coast, no comment.

    (-1) 9 Total Votes - 4 up - 5 down

Comments are closed.