Today: Regulators weigh emergency drought enforcement
When Gov. Jerry Brown signed drought legislation in March, state water officials were granted new authority to set emergency enforcement measures during dry periods. Now facing an ongoing crisis and lack of compliance with current regulations, the State Water Resources Control Board will consider exercising that power during a two-day meeting that begins today.
The move comes after the board has issued over 7,900 curtailment notices to "junior" water rights holders. Notifications ask junior rights holders -- most acquired their licenses after 1914 -- to stop or reduce diversions from rivers and streams because state law requires available water to be parceled out by seniority.
But fewer than 20 percent of these rights holders had shown that they had implemented the restrictions, as of mid-June. Rights holders are also entitled to an appeal under the board's notices, which can delay curtailment action in the process. Because the notices apply to specific time periods, the holdup has become a concern for the board.
With its enforcement proposal at today's board meeting, regulators are looking to expedite the curtailments by issuing orders that force rights holders to divert water immediately or face a fine. The proposed action still leaves the ability to appeal, but it requires water rights holders to comply with the curtailment in the interim. The board meets at 9 a.m. in the Cal/EPA Building on 1001 I Street.