Regarding PD Story on Frost Regs Ruling

Brett – thanks for the lead. I just saw the Ukiah DJ story (reprinted below). You should also contact Barbara Evoy at the SWRCB for her comments on this ruling. Who is doing the story for the PD?

General comments, on background: (my comments for publication follow below):
I will read the ruling and have more detailed comments tomorrow. This is very significant.

I’m not surprised by the ruling.

Given the highly charged nature of the case in Mendocino, (and I was likely the only supporter of the law in the courtroom aside from the SWRCB’s attorney from the state AG’s office), and, knowing that this ruling would undoubtedly be appealed by the losing party, Judge Moorman had to come up with a ruling that would look good locally and politically, and stand up reasonably in front of the Court of Appeals.

The constitutional ruling would put into doubt the state’s ability to regulate use of water under the California Constitution’s Article X, which requires ‘reasonable and beneficial use’ as a test of rights and permits to use the state’s surface water resources, which belong to the state.

I wouldn’t be surprised, in this political climate and given the fervor of grapegrowers in Mendocino County and beyond, for this to become a federal case on property rights as well.

It is unfortunate that certain grape growers in Mendocino County neither understand nor recognize the need to regulate the use of the public’s water when used for grape frost protection irrigation. Most Sonoma County growers have recognized this need, and are working in good faith to address the serious problems identified in years of hearings and scientific investigations.

We have seen significant instances of harm to protected fish as well as to downstream water users and water rights holders as a result of substantial spikes in pumping water for frost control. The prior state regulations have not been sufficient to control the excesses. The new law, just invalidated, was a good faith effort to address these problems.

It is critical to resolve these issues. The diversions of water from the Eel River into the Russian River, through PG&E’s Potter Valley Project, has for years been used to mask the excessive demands on the natural Russian River watershed, river and tributaries. Both rivers are endangered by continued unregulated pumping of water from surface water and connected groundwater for frost irrigation spraying.

We expect that these legal and policy issues will be brought to the Court of Appeals shortly. We hope that our larger community’s use of these limited water resources can be successfully addressed sooner than later.

David Keller