Yesterday an important judicial opinion was released in California that upheld private water rights, especially for farmers.
The California Department of Fish and Game has been requiring that anyone along certain rivers in the state obtain permits for activities that alter the streambed. Generally, this was applied to specific things, such as mining or constructing dams.
However, last year, the Department also started telling farmers they had to obtain a permit in order to irrigate crops along those rivers — even if they had been doing so in previous seasons.
The Siskiyou County Farm Bureau filed suit against the Department, arguing this was beyond the Department’s power given under the Fish and Game Code for the state.
So, yesterday, a Siskiyou County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Siskiyou County Farm Bureau. He stated the expansion of power was too broad and struck down the requirement.
“We understand that DFG wants to protect salmon in the rivers, but it has many other ways to do that already,” said Rex Houghton, the immediate past president of the county Farm Bureau. “Farmers will continue to work collaboratively with the agency to improve conditions for fish. The outcome does not change the notification requirement for activity that physically alters a streambed, but it is important to establish that DFG can’t require a permit for farmers simply to exercise their water rights.”