[env-trinity] CA Independent Voter Network

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed May 19 16:04:11 PDT 2010



Rules of the California water wars just drastically changed

cid:image001.jpg at 01CAF755.41EC0C70

by Bob <http://caivn.org/users/bob-morris>  Morris

Wed, May 19th 2010

A recent California Superior Court decision ruled that those who illegally
divert water from streams and rivers can be sued
7f65174301408.txt>  because the consequent lack of water downstream, with
its resultant problems, constitutes a violation of the public trust.

Among other things, this means governmental entities that are charged with
maintaining such resources can also be sued. Environmental groups have most
definitely taken note of this ruling and are planning actions.

"This new Superior Court ruling on Monday says that anyone who diverts water
must provide enough flow for downstream fish and if they don't they can be
sued by anyone," said Chris Malan of the Livings Rivers Council in Napa. He
said there are at least 286 illegal water diversions in the Napa River
watershed and that many of them are by vineyards.

Apparently, the applicable laws have barely been enforced, if not just
completely ignored. Such diversions of water can mean that downstream areas
dry up during the summer, killing fish and wildlife.

The court's ruling grew out of a lawsuit against the City of Calistoga for
not operating a dam in compliance with state law because it did not let
sufficient water pass through a fishway. Calistoga claimed this was the
responsibility of a state regulatory agency, the State Water Resource
Control Board (SWRCB), not them. The judge disagreed and said the city could
be sued, and thus set a new precedent for the entire state.

Until January of this year, the SWRCB had just one inspector for the entire
state, a classic example perhaps of how blocking enforcement of regulations
is often done by deliberate underfunding and understaffing of the agencies
involved. They now have 23 new agents, still probably not enough, but much
better than before.  Until the ruling, any such water enforcement could only
be done by SWRCB. Now they can be bypassed completely and lawsuits brought

This of course will have effect far outside of the Napa River area. The
Scott and Shatsa Rivers also can get dry in the summer, with severe effects
on the already precarious existence of salmon, notes
or-for-more-steelhead-salmon-habitat-protection/> The Trout Underground,
adding that Fish and Game has gone from being comatose to Draconian, with
the result that no one quite knows what to do or expect.

Also, another problem is that if diversion from streams is litigated and
stopped, then quite possibly some will simply drill wells and pump
groundwater out, and that this is also mostly unregulated. Shallow
groundwater and surface water are often linked hydrologically, so
groundwater pumping could easily affect downstream water flows.

The Calistoga trial starts next month. If the city loses, they could
conceivably have to pay millions to repair the alleged damage. But whatever
the outcome, the rules of the California water wars have changed

For continuing coverage of California water issues and the water wars, I
recommend Aquafornia <http://aquafornia.com/%20>  and Aquanomics
<http://aguanomics.com/> .



Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land/fax (call first to fax)

415 519 4810 mobile

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 




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