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"Auburn Dam is DEAD. The autopsy, obituary and eulogy have been written. All that remains is for the State Board to bury the corpse. Itís not often that we have the opportunity to pry millions of acre-feet of water from the grasp of the Bureau of Reclamation."

Bill Jennings, Executive Director, CSPA

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CSPA Testifies at Hearing to Revoke Auburn Water Rights: Millions of acre-feet of water at stake

Bill Jennings, Chairman, Executive Director CSPA

July 26, 2008. Ten years ago CSPA protested the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's request for an extension of time on its Auburn Dam water rights, which had been issued in 1970 and never put to beneficial use. State Board staff asked the Bureau for a CEQA document and revised plans for the Dam. The Bureau failed to provide the requested documents. Since the State Board couldnít conduct a hearing on the CSPA complaint without the required documents, staff had no alternative but to recommend revocation of more than 4 million acre-feet of storage and diversion rights. An evidentiary hearing (exhibits and testimony under oath, subject to cross-examination and rebuttal) was held this past Monday (21 July 08). Gary Wolf was the State Board presiding hearing officer.

CSPA submitted extensive written testimony and exhibits. CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings and CSPA FERC Projects Director Chris Shutes testified and CSPA Board Member Mike Jackson served as CSPAís attorney. Ron Stork of Friends of the River provided a marvelous history of Auburn Dam. Jonas Minton of the Planning and Conservation League testified. San Joaquin County and Stockton East Water District participated in the hearing because they were concerned that revocation would eliminate their languishing hope for American River water. Other parties represented at the hearing included, the Auburn Dam Council, Sacramento County, American River Authority, Save the American River Association, Westlands Water District and San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

The Bureauís defense of their water rights was embarrassingly ineffective because the Auburn Dam project is essentially dead. There has been no construction on the dam since 1975, no water put to designated beneficial use since authorized in 1970, Sacramento has embraced other alternatives for flood control and Congress has refused to appropriate money on 12 separate occasions.

The State Boardís prosecution team did an outstanding job, as did Mike Jackson who shredded the Bureauís witness on cross-examination. San Joaquin Countyís interests were undercut by the realization that the Auburn water rights could not lawfully be transferred to another party.

The entire State Water Board will review the testimony and evidence and render a final decision. We have a great hearing record and I suspect the Board will have great difficultly in not revoking the Bureauís water rights. Upon revocation, that water will revert to the state and other applicants can apply for it. However, any new water rights granted would have to consider the present degradation of fisheries and water quality and be conditioned on the protection of the public trust.

San Joaquin Countyís old application for a water right that was rejected in 1970 when that water was given to the Bureau could be revived if the County can develop a viable project. However, the only feasible solution for the County would be to divert water through EBMUDís new Freeport diversion facility on the Sacramento River and their problem is finding farmers willing to pay more than $360 per acre-feet of water.

If the Bureauís water rights are not revoked, CSPA will sue. Should the water rights not be revoked, the State Board must then schedule a hearing on a time extension and their own staff has already told them they canít do that without the necessary documents. Should they try: CSPA will sue.

Auburn Dam is DEAD. The autopsy, obituary and eulogy have been written. All that remains is for the State Board to bury the corpse. Itís not often that we have the opportunity to pry millions of acre-feet of water from the grasp of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Kudos to the CSPA team, Ron Stork and Jonas Minton!

Oral testimony of Bill Jennings, Chairman, Executive Director, CSPA

Oral testimony of Chris Shutes, FERC Projects Director, CSPA

Written Testimony of Bill Jennings, Executive Director, CSPA

Written Testimony of Chris Shutes, FERC Projects Director, CSPA