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West Side Irrigation District v. California State Water Resources Control Board

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20133
Nos. 34-2015-80002121, (Cal. Super. Ct., 07/10/2015)

A California court issued a temporary restraining order preventing the state water board from enforcing "curtailment letters" it sent to four irrigation districts in the Central Valley. The letters ordered the districts and various farmers and businesses to stop diverting water from California's rivers and streams. The board argued that the letters are informational with no pre-determination that any individual rights holder has violated the law. But the court disagreed. The letters are coercive in nature and go beyond the "informational" purpose the board claims. The letters state that the appropriators are no longer entitled to divert under their appropriative water rights. Yet this "determination" was made without a pre-deprivation hearing, thereby violating the appropriators' due process rights. Moreover, nowhere do the letters assert that the appropriators are free to ignore the directive that they cease diverting water or that it is merely a suggestion. Rather, the letters require them to affirm, under penalty of perjury, that they are no longer diverting water. The court therefore ruled that a temporary restraining order was appropriate.