California proposes historic $1.5M fine for taking water

SACRAMENTO (KRON/AP) — In another sign of the drought times in California, state officials are proposing a first-of-its-kind, $1.5 million fine for water-taking, in a move that targets a group of Central Valley farmers.

The State Water Resources Control Board on Monday said it’s proposing the fines for a water district with century-old claims to water.

The board says the Bryon-Bethany Irrigation District in Tracy illegally took water from a pumping plant after getting a warning that there was not enough water.

So-called senior water rights holders are generally protected from mandatory cutbacks, but earlier this year, the drought prompted the state to demand cutbacks from even those historically sheltered from mandatory conservation.

The Bryon-Bethany Irrigation District serves farmers in three counties in the agriculture-rich Central Valley and a residential community of 12,000 people.

District spokeswoman Erin Gilhuly did not have an immediate comment. The district has sued the state over water cuts.

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