Monday, July 20, 2015
Cali Regulators Propose Fine for Water Stealers
California's millenial drought has wrought strange behaviors. California water regulators proposed for the first time to fine a group of senior appropriators in the Central Valley $1.5 million for illegally taking water. Historically sheltered from restrictions because of the seniority of their withdrawal rights--more than a century old--the proposal indicates the severity of the drought. California Water Resources Control Board said teh Byron-Bethany Irrigation District in the Bay Area illegally took water from a pumping plant after the owners were told in June there was not enough water to meet their appropriations. The Board sent out more than 9000 notices across the parched valley warning that there was not enough water to meet demands. The District serves 160 farming families in three Central Valley counties. Crop losses are estimated at $65 million. State officials have only come down on two cases of illegal withdrawals in 1200 investigations. Byron-Bethany was singled out because of its public defiance of regulators. The District has legal process rights, of course, which it is exercising. The maximum fine in the case is $5 million. Yet to be settled by California courts is the question of whether the state board has the authority to order cutbacks from senior appropriators.