Sacramento Water Group Loses Distribution Claim

     (CN) – Members of a water-users coalition in the Sacramento Valley cannot demand that the Central Valley Project deliver their allotments before all others, the 9th Circuit ruled Monday.
     The Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority, a group of 16 water-users, had sued the Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, and Westlands Water Authority after they failed to receive 100 percent of their water allotments in 2009, a particularly dry year in the region.
     Claiming that the agencies illegally exported water to other water users before them, the Canal Authority requested a ruling “limiting the export of water south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta before filling its members’ allotments.”
     While the Bureau of Reclamation typically allocates CVP water equally among all users, it can do so on a priority basis during dry years and water shortages.
     “In dry water years, all CVP contractors have received less than their full contractual complement of water,” the 9th Circuit found Monday. “When water shortages occur, contractors south of the Delta usually bear an increased burden of the shortages.”
     Droughts in 2008 and 2009 disrupted normal service in the CVP. In 2008, members of the Canal Authority received 100 percent of their water, while south-of-delta users received about 50 percent of their allocations. With a drought emergency declared in 2009, Canal Authority members received just 40 percent of their allocations, and others received a mere 10 percent.
     Affirming summary judgment for the agencies, a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court found Monday that the Canal Authority’s contract with the CVP does not guarantee “area of origin language or priority distribution.”
     “During negotiations, the Bureau steadfastly rebuffed efforts to include terms that would provide priority in shortage periods,” Judge Johnnie Rawlinson wrote for the San Francisco-based panel. “When Canal Authority and its members signed the renewal contracts, there was absolutely no misunderstanding of the Bureau’s position regarding area of origin protection, priority rights, or shortage protection. Indeed, Canal Authority acknowledged the bureau’s consistent and persistent negotiating stance that area of origin law did not afford Canal Authority and its members priority to CVP water supply.”

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