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SSJID vows to work with state on water

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POSTED July 15, 2015 6:24 p.m.

Bulletin staff report

South San Joaquin Irrigation District stands ready to work with the State Water Board to make sure the priority system in place for the Stanislaus River watershed works.

“The State Water Board has a miserable job,” noted SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields.

On Friday, a Sacramento County judge ruled that drought regulators must allow four districts including the SSJID and Oakdale Irrigation District —to defend their water use before their rights could be taken away.

“We asked (the court) that our due process be repe4etced and they agreed,” Shields said.

The court decision prompted the state agency to back off on its curtailment orders.

OID General Manager Steve Knell was more pointed in his comments calling the state water board’s attempt to restrict century-old water rights “a complete waste of time” Wednesday after the state partially rescinded thousands of curtailment orders.

 OID along with SSJID was one of a handful of Central California water districts that challenged the water board in court in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Sacramento counties.

That ruling came more than a week after the state attorney general’s office acknowledged in cases heard in Modesto and Stockton that the orders sent by the state June 12 to more senior water rights holders like OID were “courtesy notices” and “advisory” only.

 The orders had threatened daily $1,000 fines and demanded that districts immediately cease diverting water for any use.

 “This has been a complete waste of time for the taxpayers of this state and for affected irrigation districts that had to respond to this nonsensical fire drill,” said Knell. “This has been a complete waste of economic resources at a time when the drought is draining our reserves.

 He called OID’s court challenge “moot” now that the state has backed off. The lawsuit was filed jointly with the other members of the San Joaquin Tributaries Association.

 “We irrigation districts told them early on this was the wrong path to take and that it was defenseless on their part, as they had not done their legal homework to substantiate their claims,” Knell said. “With all the bravado that has become the footprint of this water board, they went ahead and did it anyway.”

OID delivers irrigation water to more than 58,000 acres of agricultural land in northeastern Stanislaus County and southeastern San Joaquin County.

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