Multiple Bay-Delta Plan lawsuits have now been filed against the State Water Resources Control Board since it voted to increase minimum flow requirements on the Stanislaus, Merced, and Tuolumne rivers. Several irrigation districts that had been working on alternative agreements to achieve similar environmental outcomes expressed disappointment in the plan which includes unimpaired flow requirements of up to 50 percent. Those districts have now taken their objections to various courts throughout California.
The first in a series of Bay-Delta Plan lawsuits came from the Merced Irrigation District shortly after the water board’s decision back in December. The lawsuit claims that the plan will end up costing the local economy more than $230 million and nearly 1,000 jobs without providing the intended benefits to fish populations. The San Joaquin Tributaries Authority, which includes the Oakdale Irrigation District, South San Joaquin Irrigation District, Turlock Irrigation District, as well as the City and County of San Francisco, filed another suit in Tuolumne County on January 10. The group contends that the water board violated state and federal due process laws.
The Modesto Irrigation District also filed a separate lawsuit in the Sacramento Superior Court, putting forth the argument that the Bay-Delta plan violates the California Environmental Quality Act. The latest lawsuit was filed in the Santa Clara County Superior Court by the Santa Clara Valley Water District. The district asserts that the proposed plan could significantly reduce local water supplies, potentially costing the water district millions of dollars in the acquisition of alternate water supplies and increased reliance on groundwater.
Many irrigation districts had been negotiating voluntary plans with state agencies to reach an amicable water agreement prior to the water board’s vote to go ahead with the proposed plan. The series of lawsuits are expected to take years to make it through the legal process. Several districts have noted intentions of continuing to work toward a compromise with the State Water Resources Control Board.