July 16, 2015

State Water Board Issues Draft Cease-and-Desist Order Against Irrigation District

The State Water Resources Control Board has notified the West Side Irrigation District of Tracy to halt diversion of water from the Old River in San Joaquin County. The Board’s draft cease and desist order comes on the heels of recent curtailment notices issued by the Board on May 1 to hundreds of junior water rights holders, instructing them to immediately stop diverting water as such diversions imposed on the rights of senior water holders.  Last week, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the State Water Board from taking action to enforce curtailments of both these junior water rights as well as senior water rights dating to 1914, citing violations of due process.

The original curtailment notices placed irrigation district managers and the farmers they serve in a bind, forcing them to either let crops die or risk legal penalties for continued diversion. Although some hailed the judge’s decision, today’s move suggests that the State Water Board will target water rights holders on a case-by-case basis.     

West Side Irrigation District, which holds post-1914 water rights, has 20 days to request a hearing on the matter.  Failure to request a hearing or come into compliance allows the Board to adopt the order and would subject the district to hefty fines and possible further legal action by the California Attorney General’s office.   

For more information, please contact Gail Delihant at (916) 446-1435.