Do Something Wrong, Instead Of Nothing Right

Do something wrong, rather than nothing at all. Have you ever heard that before? I have heard it from Army veterans, a boss, even an elder of a church.  George Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”  A non-military way to say that is, “A poor plan now is better than no plan at all.”

What it means to you and me is, if action is necessary, do something, maybe ANYthing, rather than freezing in place or ignoring a problem. This is obvious when you see a tornado 5 miles away, for example; either drive away from it if you are in a car, or take shelter if you are on foot. If you have a plumbing leak in the house and no parts to replace broken pipe, then put a bucket under it, or turn off the valve, and call a plumber. All of us have seen a TV show (or maybe had it happen to us) where the bad guy pointed a rifle and said, “Don’t move”. What do we all say to the TV? “Don’t just stand there, run!”. Doing nothing is a much worse choice, if the result for freezing in place is death or injury.

Ready-to-install 3-inch Montana Cutthroat Flume

What about water rights – how does doing something wrong help? Everyone knows by now that surface water diverters need measurement devices, so put in a weir box and boards and measure your flow before the threats come from the Water Board, your watermaster, your ditch tender, or your neighbor.  Even just stick horizontal boards in a ditch and seal the sides with plastic – something to take positive action to reduce future pain.

Remember to file the information for the measurement device with the Water Board, either via your annual report of diversions, or using the Water Right Form and Survey Submittal Portal.

Take a look at the blog posts below.  There is enough information and how-to directions, that you should be able to do it well enough to satisfy the Water Board.  Check out these posts:

There is a philosophy based in law and a lot of experience, that says don’t put any controls on yourself until the court or government makes

Temporary Weir In Ditch

you. Why remodel your house to accommodate the wiring or plumbing, if you aren’t selling the house and everything works okay right now? Who would put a lot of money into an old truck to make it pass smog, if it just might pass a smog check the next time it has to be done? What farmer would change how he irrigates or ranches if everything still operates and the bank will keep making operating loans?

All of the Water Board deadlines have passed to install measurement devices, or file Alternative Compliance Plans.  If you haven’t got your device or plan done yet, get a Request For Additional Time done as soon as possible.

Be proactive.  Take some inexpensive, temporary action.  Educate yourself for free with some time in the Internet. Even a small, less-than-perfect improvement in your measurement device, flow and water use record keeping, can pay back a lot more when you have to deal with potential Water Board fines, a court case, or even just an angry neighbor in the future.

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Can a water right be lost?

This is a question that comes up all over California, every day.  It usually comes in one Headgate on streamof two ways:

  1. I’m about to buy some land.  Will I have a water right if the previous owner did not use it for X years ?
  2. My neighbor hasn’t used his right in X years.  He lost it, so I can use it, right?

The short answer is yes, an appropriative, post-1914 water right can be lost.  Court-decreed water rights, riparian rights, and pre-1914 cannot be lost – usually.  We’ll discuss those cases later in the post.  What most people are thinking of is the provision from WATER CODE SECTION 1240-1244:

1241.  If the person entitled to the use of water fails to use beneficially all or any part of the water claimed by him or her, for which a right of use has vested, for the purpose for which it was appropriated or adjudicated, for a period of five years, that unused water may revert to the public and shall, if reverted, be regarded as unappropriated public water. That reversion shall occur upon a finding by the board following notice to the permittee, licensee, or person holding a livestock stockpond certificate or small domestic use, small irrigation use, or livestock stockpond use registration under this part and a public hearing if requested by the permittee, licensee, certificate holder, or registration holder.

Diversion box to field“Board” means the  State Water Resources Control Board.  The emphasis on “may” and “if” is mine, and it is important.  Loss of a water right under this provision is not automatic.  It takes a complaint by someone to get it started, just as it takes a complaint for someone to get a water rights case heard by the judge of a Superior or Federal Court.

Then, if the water right holder protests that yes, he or she has diverted water during the last 5 years, it’s up to the complainant or the Board to prove that water was not diverted.  This might be from yearly photos of the land in question (rare), testimony by several neighbors;, or a lack of records from the water right holder, showing that there was indeed a crop, pasture with cattle, hay, or some other beneficial use; or some other evidence.

Let’s consider riparian rights and then put that discussion aside.  A riparian water right cannot be lost for non-use, since it is established by the Constitution of the State of California.  Riparian rights are not being considered here, and they are discussed in greater detail in the post Riparian Rules by Chuck Rich.

How does someone know that their water right may be on the chopping block?  They will have already had phone calls and probably visits from Board staff.  There should be no surprise at this point.  Then, the Board will send a letter that starts something like this:

Notice_proposed_revocation

There is an opportunity to dispute the assertions in the letter, and a water right holder can request a hearing (or hearings) before the Board.  If the alleged non-use is not a watertight case, the process can take a year or longer.

What if the water is a pre-1914 water right?  Can it be lost?  The answer used to be a fairly solid “no”, but the Board’s authority has increased in recent years.  It is harder to lose a pre-1914 right but the best defense is having used it at least once in the past five years, and having some proof it was used.

Diversion box from diversion

What if the water right is part of a  State Superior Court  or  Federal District Court  decree* or adjudication?  Interestingly, very few decrees have ANY provision for expiration of water rights.  In addition, courts usually maintain jurisdiction of these cases, so that any following petitions or lawsuits over decreed water rights must go back to court.  In essence, this makes decreed rights “eternal” or permanent, unless the rights are changed in a subsequent lawsuit.  *Statutory adjudications where the Board issued an Order of Determination, and then took it to the Superior Court to be adjudicated, might be easier for the Board to bring before the court for a revocation action.

What does the Water Board think about that?  Board staff assert that they have “concurrent authority” with State Superior Courts.  That means they have equal power over water rights.

Credit: Pixabay
Courthouse.  Photo Credit: Pixabay

Some at the Board say they have authority over the same water rights that the court does.  Is that true?

Let’s say that it is true.  Has the Board ever asserted its authority over decreed water rights in court?  The last few times I asked Board staff, the answer was “no”.  So it may be true, but as far as I have heard, it has not been tested.  So, no, decreed rights cannot be revoked by the Board without going to court.

What if a water right is managed by a water district, irrigation district, or other agency?  It boils down to, who owns the water rights?  If the district or agency owns them, then they can usually reassign them because of non-payment, and for some other reasons, too.  If the landowners own the water rights, then all the preceding paragraphs of this post apply.  The agency or district just wheels the water, for which they can collect fees for operation (labor) and maintenance if their bylaws allow.

Summarizing the subject of losing post-1914 appropriative water rights for five years of non-use, then, they can be lost if the water right holder admits it, or if there is good evidence that water has not been used.  Pre-1914 rights are harder to lose but it can happen.  The Board cannot revoke riparian rights because they are defined in the State Constitution.  Court-decreed rights cannot be revoked by the Board without going to the court with a petition or as part of a lawsuit.

File Logger And Meter Data In 2019, With Annual Reports

Diverters and reservoir owners have been wondering, when is water level logger or meter data supposed to be filed with the Water Board?  I checked with Jeff Yeazell, our public contact at the Water Board.  Folks will be able to file data with their annual reports in 2019, so you’ll do it while you are already in the Report Management System to file your Reports of Licensee (due April 1) or Supplemental Statements (due July 1).  The new forms will likely be available in January of 2019.

Jeff is a great guy, knowledgeable, very responsive, and easy to talk with, so you can be reassured you’ll get a response and most likely an answer if you contact him.  His email is Jeffrey.Yeazell@waterboards.ca.gov and you can call him at (916) 341-5322.

https://public.waterboards.ca.gov/WRInfo/ :

Upcoming AB 589 Self-Certification Courses, end of June through August!

I promised to post more information on AB 589 Self-Certification course dates…and then I did not find out where the web page with the list of dates is.    Thanks to Jenn Koch from the U.C.’s Woodland office, we have some course dates.  By the way, I took the course, and it is very well done by Dr. Khaled Bali, Larry Forero and Allan Fulton from the UC Cooperative Extension:

  1. June 29 (AM Training) UCCE- Humboldt County-(Eureka)

  2. June 29 (PM Training) UCCE- Trinity County-(Hayfork)

  3. July 9    UCCE- Modoc County (Cedarville)

  4. July 10  UCCE- Siskiyou County (Yreka)

  5. July 11  UCCE- Yolo County (Davis) – NOTE, location on AB 589 web page is incorrect

  6. August 29 UCCE- Plumas/Sierra Counties (Taylorsville)

  7. August 30 UCCE- Glenn County (Elk Creek)

[Update/Repost] Do Something Wrong, Instead Of Nothing!

Do something wrong, rather than nothing at all. Have you ever heard that before? I have heard it from Army veteran friends, a boss, even an elder of a church.

What it means to you and me is, if action is necessary, do something, maybe ANYthing, rather than freezing in place or ignoring a problem. This is obvious when you see a tornado 5 miles away, for example; either drive away from it if you are in a car, or take shelter if you are on foot. If you have a plumbing leak in the house and no parts to replace broken pipe, then put a bucket under it, or turn off the valve, and call a plumber. All of us have seen a TV show (or maybe had it happen to us) where a bad guy or an enemy pointed a rifle and said, “Don’t move.”. What do we all say to the TV? “Don’t just stand there, run!”. Doing nothing is a much worse choice!

Man working in ditch CostaDisc2-129 - EditedWhat about water rights – how does doing something wrong help? Everyone knows by now that surface water diverters need measurement devices, so put in a weir box and boards and try to measure flow if the Water Board, your watermaster, or your neighbor is promising painful consequences. Even stick boards in a ditch and seal the sides with gravel – something to take positive action to reduce future pain.

Take a look at the blog posts here.  There is enough information and how-to directions, that you might be able to do it right!  Check out these posts:

There is a philosophy based in law and a lot of experience, that says don’t put any controls on yourself until the court or government makes you. Why remodel your house to accommodate the wiring or plumbing, if you aren’t selling the house and everything works okay? Who would put a lot of money into an old truck to make it pass smog, if it just might pass a smog check the next time it has to be done? What farmer would change how he irrigates or ranches if everything still operates and the bank will keep making operating loans?

Surface water and groundwater are getting 10 50 times the attention they were prior to 2009. If the Water Board, or California Fish and Wildlife, or any other agency comes along, do something, anything, to comply sooner, even if it’s not the ultimate solution. Two posts ago, bureaucrats were discussed – they are still human beings and most people appreciate some effort to “get with the program”.

Be proactive, take some inexpensive action, educate yourself for free with some time in the Internet. Even a small, less-than-perfect improvement in your measurement device, flow and water use record keeping, diversion practices, or acreening, can pay back a lot more when you have to deal with agencies, a court, or an angry neighbor in the future.

You Can Be Your Own Qualified Individual For Diversions! AB 589 Passed October 4 – Training Coming Soon

Good news for folks who want to install, certify, measure and maintain their own devices!  AB 589 passed on October 4, and now any landowner, or their lessee or employee, can take the class and do all the required stuff to measure and record his own diversion flows / volumes.

I have not heard what the class dates might be, or whether it is online, and so on.  As soon as I do, I will sure put the word out there.  Meanwhile, let’s hope for another wetter-than-average winter – abundant water solves most of the demand issues.

 

Assembly Bill No. 589

CHAPTER 471

An act to add and repeal Section 1841.5 to, the Water Code, relating to water rights.

[ Approved by Governor  October 04, 2017. Filed with Secretary of State  October 04, 2017. ]

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 589, Bigelow. Water diversion: monitoring and reporting: University of California Cooperative Extension.

Existing law requires a person who diverts 10 acre-feet of water or more per year under a permit or license to install and maintain a device or employ a method capable of measuring the rate of direct diversion, rate of collection to storage, and rate of withdrawal or release from storage, as specified and with certain exceptions. Existing law requires the measurements to be made using the best available technologies and best professional practices using a device or methods satisfactory to the State Water Resources Control Board. Existing law requires a permittee or licensee to demonstrate to the board at 5-year intervals that a measuring device is functioning properly, as specified.

Existing law authorizes the board to adopt regulations requiring measurement and reporting of water diversion and use by persons including, but not limited to, those authorized to appropriate water under a permit, license, or registration for small irrigation use or livestock stockpond use, or a certification for livestock stockpond use.

This bill, until January 1, 2023, would require any diverter, as defined, who has completed an instructional course regarding the devices or measurement method administered by the University of California Cooperative Extension, including passage of a proficiency test before the completion of the course, to be considered a qualified individual when installing and maintaining devices or implementing methods of measurement that were taught in the course for the diverter’s diversion. The bill would require the University of California Cooperative Extension and the board to develop the curriculum of the course and the proficiency test.

Vote: majority   Appropriation: no   Fiscal Committee: yes   Local Program: no

 

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1.

Section 1841.5 is added to the Water Code, to read:

1841.5.

(a) For the purposes of a device installed pursuant to Section 1840 or 1841 or a method of measurement proposed and adopted pursuant to Section 934 or 935 of Title 23 of the California Code of Regulations, any diverter who has completed an instructional course regarding the devices or measurement method included in the course administered by the University of California Cooperative Extension, including passage of a proficiency test before the completion of the course, shall be considered a qualified individual when installing and maintaining devices or implementing methods of measurement that were taught in the course for the diverter’s diversion. The proficiency test shall seek to certify that the diverter has a satisfactory understanding of the principles of measurement and the use of a measurement method included in the course or the installation of a device. The University of California Cooperative Extension and the board shall develop the curriculum of the course and the proficiency test. The University of California Cooperative Extension and the board shall ensure the course curriculum and the proficiency test do not conflict with any state licensing acts.

(b) For purposes of this section, “diverter” means an individual authorized to divert water under a valid water right, a lessee of property that is subject to a water right who is acting as a representative of the water right holder, or a bona fide employee of the water right holder or lessee.

(c) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2023, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute that is enacted before January 1, 2023, deletes or extends that date.

Alternative Compliance Plans – First Batch Is Online

Many people have asked about Alternative Compliance Plans filed with the Water Board.  Have any been approved?  Do I have any feedback regarding the ones I filed?  What will work, and what won’t?

In short, I have heard nothing from the Water Board, so I have no answers.  However, the Water Board has started posting them online.  See the screenshot below – I erased the water right holders’ names, you can see them and download them at the web page.