Associated Press

California judge says she`ll likely uphold farmer water cuts


Source: Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- California's demand for lower agricultural water use during the drought will likely survive a legal challenge, a judge indicated Thursday.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang said during a hearing that she believes the state's revised approach to warning farmers of insufficient supplies is legal.

She previously ruled that other notices were improper.

At issue are thousands of letters sent this year to farmers, government agencies and corporations with water rights telling them to cease pumping because rivers and streams in the Central Valley are too dry to meet demand.

Recipients were required to fill out a form confirming they stopped diverting water, although only about a third did so.

The West Side Irrigation District, serving farmers east of San Francisco, challenged its notice in court and said it amounted to an illegal order without a hearing. Chang partially agreed and said the state couldn't enforce its notices.

The State Water Resources Control Board responded by sending new letters that stripped out mandatory-sounding language. However it still maintains it can fine those who take water when there is not enough available under their rights.

Board prosecutors issued a cease-and-desist order against West Side to stop it from pumping from a waterway and provided an opportunity to have a hearing before the water board.

Steve Herum, an attorney for West Side, said at Thursday's hearing that the water board was retaliating against the irrigation district for challenging the cuts in court and that the new letters were still illegal.

The judge did not issue a final ruling.

The case is one of several in California involving irrigation districts going to court to protect their rights to divert water for crops.

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