Farm Press Blog

Water rights holders call Feds on contract violation

  • Water rights holders say U.S.Bureau of Reclamation cannot arbitrarily set different allocation from what contract states.


Commence firing!

In a shot across the bow, several Sacramento River Settlement (SRS) contractors fired off a letter to David Murillo, regional director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation regarding the USBR’s decision to provide SRS contractors with a 40 percent water allocation in the wake of California’s epic drought.

There’s a problem with this. The contract between growers and the federal government allows for two options: a 100 percent allocation or a 75 percent allocation. No other options are available in the contract, according to the letter submitted to the federal government on behalf of several SRS contractors.

At the core of the issue are water rights and from where I sit SRS contractors hold the cards right now.

The letter does not threaten legal action, though it is a stern recognition that the federal government is violating its contract with water rights holders. It does ask for a conversation between the federal government and SRS contractors “to address the current situation,” which on the surface seems to be how the government will honor its contractual obligations.

The current problem with water rights in California is there’s not enough available water to go around. For those who have first dibs it’s not so much a problem. For everyone else it is.

This brings us full circle to California’s mismanagement of water and its failure to build infrastructure and bank more water for a growing population.

Even though some agricultural entities have some of the most senior water rights in the state, it seems the political winds continue to blow in the face of farmers. This puts farmers in the position of having to defend their rights over those who also need water.

Right now California legislators are battling over water bonds and whose measure is going to be approved by a super-majority of lawmakers for inclusion on a yet-to-be-determined statewide ballot. As we speak at least seven bond measures are up for consideration in the California statehouse. The problem is one already exists, but lawmakers are unwilling to put it on the ballot and let voters decide. No good reason exists for why this has happened.

Meanwhile, lakes are drying up and water regulators are trying to apportion what little water remains.

California does not have time to wait for the political winds to become favorable to the ruling class in the State Capitol or Washington D.C. Because of the stupidity that emanates from the biological opinions of those tasked with interpreting things like the federal Endangered Species Act and the California Environmental Quality Act, California is decades behind in a sustainable and stable water supply for its residents.

The time to act is now, which may include removing lawmakers and others in the way of real progress. While immediate, short-term supplies of water are limited to what nature provides we have the ability to move quickly. Do we have the will? Billions of dollars in unspent bond money exists to start moving on the more long-term projects.


Follow me on Twitter @ToddFitchette


Discuss this Blog Entry 2

gilbert f. coelho (not verified)
on Mar 4, 2014

What been said in the water right's article is do true, get the poltians out of the way so California farmers move go the good of the state

Stephen Toscano (not verified)
on Mar 9, 2014

This issue has been around for too many years. I think its time for this to be decided. The farmers in my area really don't know what to do This needs to come to a vote. We can't change what mother gives us, but we can do a better job with what she does give.

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