As Delta farmers struggle to file water use reports by July 2 to comply with last year’s legislation changing reporting requirements, the Senate will be voting this week on SB 565 (Pavley). This bill would establish several new penalty and investigative powers at the State Water Resources Control Board dealing with water rights, while reducing or eliminating existing due process and property rights protections for California water rights holders.
Allows the State Water Board to review and revise any water right without cause, giving this agency new invasive power to inspect private property for vaguely defined purposes to ascertain whether the beneficial purposes of water use are being met.
Shifts the burden of proving forfeiture of a water right to the water right holder – dramatically increasing the likelihood of a frivolous lawsuit being filed by a third party.
Forces property owners to pay for the extremely costly engineering reports that will ultimately be used against them by third party litigants.
Increases exponentially the penalty to reflect the “market value” of water (regardless of the actual value of the water to the user)
These provisions were considered for inclusion in last year’s SBx7 5 on water rights enforcement, but were ultimately abandoned for lack of support.
Many Delta farmers believe, and we concur, that these new authorities will be used to litigate Delta farmers out of existence. By keeping Delta farmers in a position of defense, those who want to usurp their water rights will keep the financial pressure on, forcing Delta farmers to “sell” the farm. This is a blatant attempt to rewrite the California water code to justify taking away the historical water rights held by Delta families.
What is even more shameful about this proposed legislation is that it does not help to meet the long term environmental needs of the Delta, but actually sets the stage for even more water diversions.