Posted: Thursday, May 03, 2012 11:00 AM
Rule's effect on water users to be accepted as evidence in trial
By TIM HEARDEN
YREKA, Calif. -- The trial to decide the fate of the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau's water lawsuit against the California Department of Fish and Game has been delayed a week.
The local Farm Bureau filed suit last year, contending that Fish and Game is violating Scott and Shasta valley landowners' water and property rights by requiring permits for irrigators.
During a hearing on pretrial motions April 30, county Superior Court Judge Karen Dixon agreed to postpone the trial after the state introduced more documents, said Darrin Mercier, attorney for the Farm Bureau.
The trial is now slated for 9 a.m. May 8 in Yreka.
In other motions, Dixon ruled that Mercier can enter evidence about how Fish and Game Code Section 1602 -- the source of the controversy -- is affecting water users, he said. The state had wanted only a strict reading of the statute.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris' office, which is defending the lawsuit, has declined to comment about the case.
The suit asks the court to prevent the state agency from enforcing what the plaintiff calls DFG's "new" interpretation of state Fish and Game Code Section 1602, which the agency has argued requires landowners to obtain expensive permits for simple diversions.
The suit asserts that farmers need declaratory relief or they could face misdemeanor charges and civil and criminal penalties of more than $25,000 per violation.
To obtain streambed alteration and incidental take permits on their own, landowners would have to pay fees and environmental review costs that could fall between $11,000 and $28,000, a water official has said.
The suit was filed as San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith was set to invalidate a much cheaper watershed-wide permit the DFG offered to landowners in the two valleys in 2010. Goldsmith ruled the agency didn't prepare the permits in accordance with environmental laws.
Last summer, Siskiyou County Superior Court Commissioner JoAnn Bicego denied a motion by the Karuk Tribe, Klamath Riverkeeper and two other environmental groups to intervene in the local Farm Bureau's lawsuit.
Siskiyou County Farm Bureau: www.siskiyoucountyfarmbureau.com
California Department of Fish and Game: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/