Friday , May 24 2024

State Orders Largest Cuts to Date to Some Senior Water Right Holders

Farmers and rural communities are again being hit hard by the latest round of water cuts–this one affecting senior water right holders with rights that date back to 1903.

The State Water Board has ordered 114 senior water right holders to stop diverting water from the San Joaquin, Sacramento and Delta watersheds, making it the largest cuts on record for senior water right holders.

Some of senior water right holders include irrigation districts, making the impact even greater, extending to rural communities that will now have to find other sources of water.

"They say well some more farmers may have to go fallow, some more farms, no big deal. It’s a damn big deal," said Manuel Cunha with the Nisei Farmers League.

Cunha said the impact of this decision will extend beyond the senior water right holders.

"They’re going to have to lay off workers, people in the communities are going to be impacted, and other businesses are going to be impacted by what they’re doing today," Cunha said.

The order affects those whose water rights date back to 1903 and on. The State Water Board said they will be assessing the need for further curtailment of more senior rights and other watersheds on a weekly basis.

"I think it’s a very dangerous precedent that is being set here. We’re really undoing water rights that go back to the Gold Rush era, said Asm. Jim Patterson, a Republican of Fresno.

Patterson said it will open the door to years of lawsuits.

Although it’s a record setting order, it’s not unprecedented, according to the State Water Board. In the drought of the 70s, the State Water Board made some senior water right holders cut back, but it didn’t affect nearly as many people as this decision will.

"It’s a significant additional cut primarily to agriculture. Agriculture has already taken big deep hits," Patterson said.

It’s a move Patterson believes was unnecessary, saying the state could chose to release the water that’s stored up behind Shasta Dam that’s being protected.

"This has been a selective approach. It has been especially damaging to central California and especially damaging to agriculture," Patterson said.

Those who violate this order could be fined up to $ 1,000 a day.

Some of these senior water right holders claim the state doesn’t have the authority to force these kinds of cuts, and some plan to take legal action.

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