By Sam Matthews/Tracy Press
Banta Carbona Irrigation District
Water is still flowing in the Banta Carbona Irrigation District’s main lift canal. Although the district’s legal motion to halt the 100 percent cutoff of river water pumping was rejected in court Wednesday, water is still being delivered, as the legality of the State Water Board’s curtailment order as an enforceable demand remains in question.
Banta-Carbona Irrigation District was still pumping water from the San Joaquin River Thursday morning as the BCID board of directors met in closed session.
If any changes were made at the meeting in response to a demand by the State Water Resources Control Board to stop pumping, that information remained secret Thursday afternoon.
Thursday morning’s board meeting was the latest in a se-ries of fast-moving developments after the Tracy area’s largest irrigation district was notified June 18 to stop all pumping of irrigation water from the river as a drought wa-ter-conservation measure.
After a seven-day waiting period, the curtailment — first in history for districts such as BCID with senior pre-1914 water rights — was scheduled to begin Wednesday morn-ing after midnight.
But because of what was considered conflicting infor-mation from the State Water Board and attorney general’s office during a Tuesday court hearing on a BCID lawsuit, the district decided to pump water until the language could be clarified.
“We will keep pumping until our attorneys tell us not to,” BCID board president Jim McLeod said Wednesday after-noon, when he pointed out that river flows in the San Joaquin River were at adequate levels.
Thursday, he said he wasn’t authorized to say anything more after the closed board meeting.
In a statement issued Thursday morning, the State Water Board reiterated its position: that the curtailment demand to halt pumping from the river, while not officially an or-der, could still be enforced under present state law.
Fines up to $1,000 per day and $2,500 per acre-foot of wa-ter are possible for unauthorized diversions of river water, the State Water Board has repeatedly warned districts.
In the meantime, the Byron Bethany Irrigation District northwest of Tracy resumed pumping Thursday morning, following a 24-hour shutdown, after securing a water pur-chased from another district, according to Rick Gilmore, BBID general manager.
“We have purchased 3,000 acre feet of water at $650 per acre-foot, from the Carmichael Water District,” he report-ed. “It will be sufficient to provide water for planted and permanent crops.”
Gilmore said BBID is continuing to provide water to Mountain House on an interim basis, awaiting final ap-proval of Mountain House’s purchase of water from Man-teca-based South San Joaquin Irrigation District. That wa-ter would be delivered by BBID.
Both Banta-Carbona and Byron Bethany districts have hoped to secure water that has been stored by both districts in the San Luis Reservoir near Santa Nella. The water, which would be taken from the Delta-Mendota Canal, would provide the districts a cushion against any curtail-ments imposed by the State Water Board.
But that possibility is still in limbo Thursday, reported Frances Mizuno, assistant executive director of the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which operates the canal for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
She said the State Water Board had not yet approved a plan to reduce flows from Shasta Dam in order to keep downstream water at the right temperature for salmon.
If the reduced dam releases, along with diversions from water users in the Sacramento Valley and Delta, result in insufficient water available for pumping into the Delta-Mendota Canal, major problems could ensue.
“We need flows in the canal of at least 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) in order to meet our obligations to water users still authorized to take water from the canal,” she said.
Mizuno noted that the city of Tracy is among the author-ized Delta-Mendota Canal water users.