On 24 September 2014, CSPA testified at a State Water Resource Control Board (State Board) workshop regarding a proposed order on Central and Southern Delta Water Availability and Use. CSPA had previously submitted comments on 15 September.
The stated purpose of the workshop was to receive comments and discuss the process the State Board should use to address recent allegations by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) that Delta water users were stealing project water. Attached to the hearing notice was a draft order requiring riparian and pre-1914 appropriative water right claimants within the Delta to provide specific information regarding the type of water right and monthly amounts of water diverted under each claim.
CSPA joined South and Central Delta Water Agencies, San Joaquin County and other representatives of Delta landowners in recommending the State Board conduct a formal evidentiary hearing, with cross-examination and rebuttal. Baring that, CSPA and Delta interests recommended that all parties agree to refer the matter to court to address the factual and legal issues.
CSPA characterized the process as a witch hunt and compared the State Board to a store manager, facing allegations of missing inventory, who didn’t know how much inventory was delivered to the store or how much or by what means inventory was removed and who proposed to address the problem by installing a checkout counter for a small subset of customers: in this case, Delta farmers. CSPA pointed out that: actual Delta outflow, natural inflow, accretions and channel losses in both the tributaries and Delta are all calculated “guestimates;” the projects had “commingled riparian and stored water and that “abandoned water” in the Delta was subject to public trust requirements and the water rights seniority system.
CSPA suggested that if the State Board desired to pursue allegations that Delta farmers were illegally taking water belonging to the state and federal projects, it needs to first determine whether the water DWR and USBR claim is being taken actually reaches the Delta and whether the projects have legal rights to it. It must quantify the volume and source of commingled water in both upstream waters and the Delta Pool and then sort out the legal rights to that water.
The State Board was clearly troubled by the testimony and made no decision. Earlier, the Board had clarified that CSPA’s formal 13 August complaint alleging that DWR and USBR had been illegally exporting water and petition to adjudicate Central Valley waters would be considered separately.