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$1.55 Million Fine on California Farmers For 'Stealing' Water

Image: $1.55 Million Fine on California Farmers For 'Stealing' Water
Jacob Rodriguez, 8, drinks recycled wastewater in El Segundo, California, where the concept of "toilet-to-tap" is gaining traction because of the state's water crisis. (REUTERS/David McNew)

By    |   Wednesday, 22 Jul 2015 07:11 AM

A $1.55 million fine was proposed on Monday against a California water district for "stealing" water, the latest sign of growing tensions between state regulators and farmers as they deal with dwindling resources.

The Bryron-Bethany Irrigation District in Byron was hit with the heavy fine by the State Water Resources Control Board after the district was charged with diverting water illegally over the course of two weeks, reported the Sacramento Bee.

The board has told thousands of such irrigation districts they do not have surface water available to them, leading to lawsuits against the board. Byron-Bethany is one of the district's suing the state board, noted the Bee.

"The state board is choosing to make an arbitrary example out of (Byron-Bethany) at the expense of our customers and the communities their hard work supports," Byron-Bethany president Russell Kagehiro said in a statement.

While Byron-Bethany can challenge the fine at an administrative hearing, Daniel Kelly, the irrigation district's attorney, said he didn't believe the state board could make it an impartial hearing.

KCRA-TV reported last week that the West Side Irrigation District in Tracy, California, was charged with illegally pumping water from Old River. The state board had issued a cease-and-desist order against the district for the unauthorized use, noted the television station.

"During a May 18 inspection, the district was observed to be pumping water out of Old River," the water board said in a statement.

West Side Irrigation had also filed a lawsuit against the state board, noted the Bee.

"We regard it as retaliatory," Steve Herum, West Side Irrigation's attorney, told KCRA-TV. "It's an effort to crush the district. We exercised our rights and had a judge determine that the 9,300 curtailment letters were unconstitutional."

The state continues to suffer from a record-breaking drought that is into its fourth year, according to CBS News. California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in response to the drought in January and his administration began imposing strict conservation rules.

However, the state's water problems are made worse by conflicting environmental mandates and the usual California political fighting. 


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A $1.55 million fine was proposed on Monday against a California water district for "stealing" water, the latest sign of growing tensions between state regulators and farmers as they deal with dwindling resources.
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2015-11-22
Wednesday, 22 Jul 2015 07:11 AM
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