The 2015 water amendment to the 2014 California Budget Act

Submitted: Mar 29, 2015
Badlands Journal editorial board

      4)Accelerates $660 million from the Governor's January budget proposal of Proposition 1E of 2006, bond monies for flood protection in urban and rural areas to make the state's infrastructure more resilient to climate change and flood events. -- Gabrielle Meindl, California State Assembly Budget Committee consultant, March 24, 22015.


We picked out the above consultant commentary on AB 91, the billion-dollar drought bill, for two reasons. First, it treats by far the largest component of the bill, $660 million from a 2006 bond proposition. Second, we picked it because the word "accelerates" leaves a lot to be desired, description-wise, regarding these hundred millions and all the other millions "accelerated" throughout the bills. Is there some sort of political propellant involved? Is it a danger to the ozone layer? What has the bond been doing since 2007,  smoking dope with consultants? This brings us to the next topic of interest in the bill.


2)Allow DFW to assess civil penalties, including administrative penalties, for obstructing fish passage with separate provisions  for obstructions associated with marijuana cultivation.  Require DFW adopt emergency regulations to implement the penalty  provisions and amend the Timber and Forest Restoration Fund to  allow for the receipt of penalty monies.-- Gabrielle Meindl, California State Assembly Budget Committee consultant, March 24, 22015.


Something like this is predictable, of course, given the California Legislature's deep and abiding interest in mind-altering substances from its earliest days, swigging down the whisky between water fights. We even dredged up a newspaper article from 2009 about "water rustlers" in Potter Valley, on the Mendocino/Lake County line. The provision in the 2015 amendment to the 2014 California Budget Act  could have come straight out of the article, in itself 25 years late, which proves that things which have long been taken for granted socially in the state Legislature take awhile to penetrate the official consciousness.For the rest of these important drought bills, we thought that maybe if we read the bills themselves and these commentaries we might gain a deeper understanding than we did by reading newspaper accounts of them. Actually, we didn't, but we thought we'd give you the opportunity to see what you can make out of them. The bills themselves are pretty heavy sledding, but the commentaries and summaries are available here:


AB 91

AB 92


For masochists and water lawyers, the full text of the bills are here:


AB 91 blj

 AB 92










Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Water rustling on the rise in Mendocino County

Glenda Anderson

Water rustling is becoming a problem in Potter Valley, where irrigation canals crisscross farmland, sustaining crops and livestock as they carry water from the Eel River to the Russian River.

"Water trucks are basically stealing water from the canals," said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman.

It's not yet known who is taking the water or where it is going but law officials suspect at least some went to illegal pot gardens that proliferate throughout the county.

"We have our suspicions," Allman said.

Throughout the summer, water trucks can be found rumbling down Mendocino County's dirt back roads, carrying water to areas where there are known marijuana gardens and no other agriculture to speak of.

Those alternative gardeners likely pay someone for the water, but the water can't be bought.

Taking Potter Valley Irrigation District water outside of the valley is illegal, whether or not it's purchased, noted district Supervisor Steve Elliott.

State regulations prohibit water from being used outside of the Potter Valley Irrigation District's boundaries, a rule that applies to all water districts unless they're granted special permits.

And most people in the water purveying business should know that, Elliott said.

Yet there have been a dozen recent reports of water trucks siphoning Potter Valley's canals, then heading out of the valley northeast of Ukiah.

"I'm talking about 2,000 gallon and 3,000 gallon water trucks with no truck identification," Elliott said.

There's no way to know how much water has been trucked out of the valley, he said. Elliott suspects much of it is happening under cover of darkness.

It's not harming the district's ability to provide for its customers' irrigation needs, but it could be a problem for others, especially during the current drought.

"It's an infringement on downstream water rights," Elliott said.

The canals are fed by a water diversion on the Eel River, high above the valley. They, in turn, feed the east fork of the Russian River.

There's little doubt water truck owners and the Potter Valley residents who may be selling them water already know it's illegal.

Potter Valley irrigation district members who illegally sell district water can have their irrigation supply cut off, Elliott said.

But water buyers — who usually pay dearly for the water — may not know it's illegal, he said.

Elliott said he's been getting phone calls from people asking to buy Potter Valley water because they know of others who have done so, Elliott said.

The district and law enforcement officials will meet Wednesday afternoon to figure out what to do about the illegal activities.

"I'm trying to bring it to the public's attention. Maybe they'll find a legitimate way to get the water," Elliott said.

Water theft is nothing new but Allman said he seems to be hearing more complaints about it countywide this year.

So have members of the water district that governs most of the Ukiah Valley's water rights.

"Desperate times are causing desperate behavior," said Sean White, director of the Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District.

Most of the Sheriff's Office complaints are from people who suspect their springs and wells are running dry because they're being tapped by neighboring marijuana gardens, Allman said.

Allman said his office won't tolerate marijuana growers who partake in water thievery.

"Illegal water diversion this year is being taken very seriously," he said.


Something a bit more up-to-date from our Arab brothers:


Al Jazeera

California love: Water thieves just can’t get enough

In northern areas of the state, counties report illegal diversions from tanks, wells and streams

LOS ANGELES — Something rare quickly becomes valuable. So it should come as no surprise that the latest target of thieves in a state suffering a historic drought is water.

California thieves are cutting pipes and taking water from fire hydrants, storage tanks, creeks and rivers to get their hands on several hundred gallons of the precious commodity.

They drive in the thick of night with a 1,000-gallon tank on the back of a pickup and go after the liquid gold wherever they can find it. Some have hit the same target twice in one night, filling up their tank, unloading it into storage and returning for a second fill-up.

Counties, mostly in the more rural northern parts of California, are reporting a surge in thefts and illegal diversions of water from wells and streams. The prime suspects are illegal marijuana farmers desperate for water before the fall harvest, which would explain the surge in water thievery over the summer.

“A lot of the wells have gone dry, and the marijuana growers have run out of water and have been illegally taking the water out of the creeks,” said Hank Weston, supervisor in Nevada County, an old mining area in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California’s northeast. (The county has been around longer than the state of Nevada next door.)

“They have broken into a school district holding tank and in the fire department’s holding tank,” Weston said. “Some of the water trucks are pulling up near rivers and dropping water hoses in and suctioning it out.”

All of which is illegal, of course, but does not usually amount to much more than fines and a misdemeanor — at least for now.

Weston has lived in Nevada County since 1988. Despite a series of severe droughts in the past 30 years, he said, “it’s the first time I’ve heard of this.”

‘A lot of the wells have gone dry, and the marijuana growers have run out of water and have been illegally taking the water out of the creeks.’

Hank Weston

supervisor, Nevada County

This water rustling wave evokes the Wild West and the adage that whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting — an unconfirmed quote widely attributed to Mark Twain.

In 2014 the fight to catch the water thieves is on.

Local law enforcement and state agencies have set up hotlines for water theft reporting and illegal water diversions. Schools that have been hit have installed security cameras. Fire stations have put locks on water valves.

The State Water Resources Control Board has received $1.4 million this year from the legislature for a pilot cannabis enforcement program to crack down on illegal tapping of water sources.

The board is working with California Fish and Wildlife and regional water control agencies in charge of enforcing water quality to crack down on those who take water they have no right to take.

“For many water rights violations, it might be a $1,000 a day penalty or even as low as $500,” said Chris Carrigan, the state’s top water cop. “But for water quality, fines are $5,000 to $10,000 a day.”

The biggest deterrent has been a neighborhood watch campaign of sorts that asks residents to be on the lookout. Carrigan advises anyone who sees a thief in action to “take a photograph. Photograph the license plate number.”

Some of those doing the stealing are companies that sell water to homeowners with dry wells. Ads that say “I will deliver water to your property” are quickly flagged, Carrigan said. His enforcement division calls the number, sets up a delivery and often catches the pilferers in action.

“People have been caught, and people have been cited,” said Carre Brown, Mendocino County supervisor and chairwoman of a countywide drought task force.

Mendocino, on California’s North Coast, is a hotbed of illegal marijuana grows. “I would say the main culprits were the ones who were looking to water marijuana gardens,” she said. “The penalties in California are not harsh enough.”

At a construction site for a Highway 101 bypass, some water poachers tried to get into the water-truck line used by construction crews. Some tried to masquerade as fire crews to get at water kept at Cal Fire camps.

‘For many water rights violations, it might be a $1,000 a day penalty or even as low as $500. But for water quality, fines are $5,000 to $10,000a day.’

Chris Carrigan

California’s top water cop

The Association of California Water Agencies has seen water theft incidents bubbling up around the state but has no hard numbers because most of the evidence is anecdotal, said Lisa Lien-Mager, an association spokeswoman. “We may see the trend continue if drought conditions persist into 2015.”

She warned that water rustling is far from an everyday occurrence and that “that’s important to keep in mind.”

Maybe so, but the North San Juan Fire Protection District in Nevada County, which had 8,000 gallons of water stolen from one station in early August, is taking no chances. The fire department has placed combination locks on its water valves, which slows fire response by about 30 seconds but protects the department’s water supply.

“We made a stink about it because we realize that the way to deal with it for us was to publicize it widely and get local vigilantes riled up,” said Battalion Chief Boyd Johnson. “This is a potentially dangerous thing for the community to have the water from the fire department taken.”

No one has been caught for the August theft that drained the targeted station of three-fourths of its water. Luckily, it was discovered within 24 hours because an engineer noticed puddles of water on the ground. Had it not been caught then, it might have been discovered only in response to a fire emergency, which could have been disastrous.

The watch program has been so effective in Mendocino County that a farmer who was legitimately filling up water from his well and transporting it to another side of his ranch got a quick visit from law enforcement.

“We all work together,” Brown said. “We see a water truck moving, we ask if it’s a legal one.”



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Between drones

Submitted: Mar 26, 2015
Badlands Journal editorial board

It seems to be a week, as the drums of war go on beating, when people are looking for perspective. At least we don't think it is only us at Badlands. For awhile after the fall of the Soviet Union, there seemed to be a choice to be or not to be the world's policeman and "indispensable nation." Evidently, somewhere far beyond the counsel of ordinary people, the decision was made to continue to pour the public billions into the military-industrial complex.

Curiously, many of the so-called serious threats to our national security, for example, China, seem to investing in projects to improve their own and other nations' infrastructures to increase trade and prosperity.


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Submitted: Mar 24, 2015
Badlands Journal editorial board

“It is one thing for the US and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal US secrets and play them back to US legislators to undermine US diplomacy,” the Wall Street Journal quoted a senior US official as saying. -- Borger, Zonszein, The Guardian, March 24, 2015


Our current political situation is unprecedented. The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society's ground rules, while the rich get even richer -- yet this situation doesn't translate into a winning politics.

If anything, the right keeps gaining and the wealthy keep pulling away. How can this possibly be? -- Robert Kuttner, Huffington Post, March 24, 2015

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World Water Day

Submitted: Mar 23, 2015
Badlands Journal editorial board

Because the water crisis is misdiagnosed, we do not have the right solutions to solve the crisis. World leaders, elected officials and international institutions wrap the water crisis in with their research and deliberations on climate change. If water is mentioned at all, it is as one more victim of climate change, almost always solely attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. The fact that destroying water-retentive landscapes is in and of itself a major cause of climate change is not part of the analysis or discussion in climate change circles. -- Maude Barlow,, March 22, 2015.

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Re: Sharks

Submitted: Mar 22, 2015
Badlands Journal editorial board



Shark attack kills German tourist at Red Sea resort in Egypt

The shark bit the unidentified man's leg off below the knee, according to Egyptian officials.

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"Moving forward"

Submitted: Mar 18, 2015
Badlands Journal editorial board

 We've been stunned by the drought and responses to it locally and at a state and national level. Environmentalists have been warning about how farmers have been over-drafting the aquifer in the Central Valley for decades and have been snubbed and demonized for mentioning it, as if we were not citizens and members of the same society that landowners and urban businessmen are. They don't even have to bribe elected officials anymore; social elites spring up overnight around wealth in new industries, whose "leaders" get what they want and they always want more water. Elected officials and educators -- from kindergarten to UC Merced -- babble on constantly about leadership. And they all use that one phrase, growing more absurd by the day: "We've got to move forward."

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Cloud of stink over new county courthouse

Submitted: Mar 11, 2015
Badlands Journal editorial board

 MDA attorneys, headed by administrator Tom Pfeiff, handle criminal cases for indigent defendants in Merced County whenever any conflicts of interest prevent the Public Defender’s Office from representing someone..“Whatever issue has arisen with regard to the money received by Judge Garcia pursuant to the dissolution of our joint venture has nothing to do with MDA and is entirely between Judge Garcia and the Commission on Judicial Performance. Following the appointment, Pfeiff bought out Garcia, making payments in monthly installments between 2008 and 2012 totaling $250,000, the commission said.

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"In order to save the Delta ..."

Submitted: Mar 09, 2015
Badlands Journal editorial board

Speaking to an audience in Chico, a Sacramento Valley town with a state college attached to a popular brewery, state Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin succinctly stated the reasoning bethind the Bay Delta Conservation Plan: In order to save the Delta, it is necessary to destroy it -- for the good of the fish, the environment, farmers and 25 million people who depend on it for drinking water -- because the state and federal government has to move forward and show the people that it can proact in a big way in the 21st century.--blj


...While drought and groundwater are the topics of the day, Cowin said the plans to build water delivery around the delta are still necessary.

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Super high, super dude, SUPERFLY Hostetler pledges something

Submitted: Mar 06, 2015
Badlands Journal editorial board

 On Monday night at the Merced City Council meeting, it was --

Super high,

Super dude,



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Joe Public comments on the Merced County groundwater ordinance

Submitted: Mar 04, 2015
Badlands Journal editorial board

 This morning we received this commentary on the Merced County groundwater ordinance from Joe Public. It says what needs to be said about this latest water plan-to-make-a-plan.

We would only add that Steve Sloan was the chairman of the county Planning Commission during the entire building boom. Sloan is a man who never saw development he didn't like. He is one of two landowners whose groundwater mining triggered the production of this list of exemptions wrapped in an ordinance. -- blj


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