News Briefs: Water Board Moves to Drop Record Fine

In this week’s news briefs, California officials consider dismissing a $1.55 million fine levied against the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, and an Oregon city announces plans to sell unused water rights.
News Briefs: Water Board Moves to Drop Record Fine

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The California State Water Resources Control Board has moved to dismiss a record $1.55 million fine levied last summer against the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, which was accused of ignoring drought-related cuts in water diversions.

The action was an attempt to enforce use limits on agricultural districts that argue their senior water rights are beyond the state’s reach, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The complaint alleged that after the state issued the stop order, Byron-Bethany continued to divert 2,067 acre-feet of water over the next 13 days from an intake channel at a state-run pumping station near Tracy. According to the Sacramento Bee, the station delivers water to farms and cities in the southern Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

In a draft ruling, board members said prosecutors failed to provide enough supporting evidence and didn’t adequately explain why there wasn’t enough water available for the district to use, per the report. The hearing officers also found issues with the calculations used to determine which category of rights holders should be ordered to stop withdrawals.

“We maintained all along that we were legally exercising our pre-1914 senior water right,” says Byron-Bethany General Manager Rick Gilmore. “We are thankful the state water board’s hearing team found multiple, significant discrepancies in the case against us.”

The full board will vote on the dismissal at a June 7 meeting.

Source: Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee

City Announces Plan to Sell Unused Water Rights for $16.2 Million
The City of Salem, Oregon, has agreed to sell part of its water rights on the Willamette River to the fast-growing city of Hillsboro, the Associated Press reports. Hillsboro will pay Salem $16.2 million as part of the deal.

“We don’t have any immediate need for it. We don’t have any long-term need for it. It’s a great way to turn it into cash,” says Salem Public Works Director Peter Fernandez.

Salem doesn’t get its drinking water from the Willamette River, the Statesman Journal reports. The city currently gets its water from the North Santiam River, where it holds rights for a total of 239 cfs. Salem’s Willamette River right allows it to divert 200 cubic feet per second of surface water.

According to the report, Salem has agreed to sell Hillsboro 56 cubic feet per second and gives Hillsboro the first right of refusal on an additional 44 cubic feet per second at a price to be determined.

The deal will only go through if the Water Resources Department approves the transfer and a water management and conservation plan, as well as a change in the location where the water is taken from the river.

The Statesman Journal reports Salem plans to use the money from the deal to improve its water infrastructure.

Source: Statesman Journal, The Associated Press

Water Authority Hosts 700 Students at Annual Festival
The Henry County (Georgia) Water Authority recently hosted about 700 fourth-grade students from Atlanta-area schools as part of its regional Children’s Wonder of Water Festival.

The Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District organized the 13th annual festival, which was held at the Shamrock/Blalock Reservoirs in Jonesboro. The festival coincided with national Drinking Water Week, which was recognized the first week in May.

The goal of the WOW festival is to provide educational opportunities for students in an outdoor setting that reminds them of the importance of water quality and quantity issues impacting local waterways, the Henry Herald reports.

Source: Henry Herald


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