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Irrigation Districts Sue Water Board

A group of Central California irrigation districts filed a lawsuit Friday, June 19 that challenges the state’s authority to curtail their century-old water rights on the Stanislaus River.

Attorneys for the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority – a group made up of the South San Joaquin, Oakdale, Modesto, Turlock and Merced irrigation districts, and the city and county of San Francisco – are suing the State Water Resources Control Board. On June 12, the water board issued drought-related curtailment notices to SSJID, OID and more than 100 other “senior” rights holders whose claims on water pre-date the beginning of California’s permitting process in 1914.

The lawsuit was filed in Stanislaus County Superior Court in Modesto.

“The State Water Resources Control Board has a difficult challenge to manage a critically deficient water supply, but that challenge does not trump constitutional protections of due process and property rights,” said Jeff Shields, SSJID’s general manager.

“This is our water,” added OID General Manager Steve Knell. “We believe firmly in that fact and we are willing to take on the state bureaucracy to protect that right.”