More wa­ter rights cur­tailed

State adds to the list of hold­ers told to stop draw­ing from rivers and streams with shriv­eled flows.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Bet­tina Box­all bet­tina.box­all@latimes.com Twit­ter: @box­all

State reg­u­la­tors Fri­day added to the grow­ing list of wa­ter rights hold­ers who have been told to stop draw­ing from rivers and streams as the drought shriv­els sum­mer flows.

The State Wa­ter Re­sources Con­trol Board is cur­tail­ing 16 wa­ter rights held by se­nior di­vert­ers on the up­per San Joaquin River and the Merced River, as well as some of San Fran­cisco’s rights on the Tuolumne River.

The ac­tion will have lit­tle prac­ti­cal ef­fect on San Fran­cisco be­cause the city can con­tinue to draw from its main wa­ter source, Hetch Hetchy Reser­voir, which is 95% full, thanks in part to spring storms.

Steve Ritchie, an as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager of the San Fran­cisco Public Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion, said the city will be “in good shape” even if the state or­ders an end to all of its di­ver­sions in the Tuolumne wa­ter­shed this sum­mer.

On the Merced River, the board ac­tion af­fects rights dat­ing to 1858. On the up­per San Joaquin, it hits all rights ex­cept ri­par­ian, which al­low landown­ers to di­vert wa­ter flow­ing by their prop­erty.

The af­fected di­vert­ers in­clude sev­eral ir­ri­ga­tion dis­tricts, a ranch, a dairy and Pa­cific Gas and Elec­tric Co. The ef­fect on the util­ity will be neg­li­gi­ble since it can con­tinue to use wa­ter for hy­dro­elec­tric gen­er­a­tion as long as the flows are re­turned to the river.

Fri­day’s or­der comes af­ter the board on June 12 di­rected more than 100 grow­ers and ir­ri­ga­tion dis­tricts with rights dat­ing to 1903 to stop tak­ing sup­plies from Cen­tral Val­ley rivers and streams.

The San Fran­cisco rights in Fri­day’s no­tice should have been in­cluded in the ear­lier or­der, the board said, but were omit­ted be­cause of in­ac­cu­ra­cies in the state data­base.

Thou­sands of ju­nior rights hold­ers were or­dered to halt di­ver­sions last sum­mer and again this year. This month’s ac­tions marked the first time since the 1976-77 drought that the state board has moved to stop with­drawals by se­nior di­vert­ers with rights more than a cen­tury old.

Sev­eral ir­ri­ga­tion dis­tricts and the San Joaquin Trib­u­taries Au­thor­ity are su­ing the board, claim­ing the state has no au­thor­ity over pre-1914wa­ter rights.

San Fran­cisco is a mem­ber of the au­thor­ity, but Ritchie said that if the city de­cides to chal­lenge the state or­der, it would con­sider fil­ing a sep­a­rate law­suit.

“We’re con­sid­er­ing all our op­tions,” he said. “We don’t think the state board has the au­thor­ity to do this.”

The board is ex­pected to con­tinue is­su­ing more cur­tail­ments as river and stream flows de­cline this sum­mer.

Con­di­tions “cer­tainly aren’t get­ting any bet­ter,” said board spokesman Tim Moran.

Ge­naroMolina Los An­ge­les Times

THE STATE Wa­ter Re­sources Con­trol Board is cur­tail­ing some of San Fran­cisco’s rights on the Tuolumne River, but it won’t af­fect the city­much.

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