Posted September 19, 2013
In a proposed decision, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge, Raymond Cadei, said a fee charged to California water rights holders is invalid and should not be applied or enforced, according to a California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) press release, available here.
The CFBF challenged the fee as an “unconstitutional tax” arguing that those who pay the fee have a disproportionate burden of funding the water board’s Division of Water Rights. Judge Cadei agreed with the CFBF, stating that “no fees are assessed against the holders of approximately 38 percent of all water rights in California” and the fees pay more than a minimal amount “for activities that benefit the public in general.” Judge Cadei concluded that the fees were not fair, reasonable, nor substantially apportioned among those who paid the fee.
CFBF President Paul Wenger said, “Farmers and ranchers are willing to pay their fair share to support programs that benefit them, but not to shoulder the full burden of programs just because that’s a convenient way for a government agency to support itself…We’re encouraged by the judge’s proposed decision and will continue to seek a refund of fees that have been improperly charged to farmers and ranchers.”
Judge Cadei also said that the water board had “erred by charging water contractors in the Central Valley Project for the full amount of the federal project’s water permit, rather than the proportion of that water actually made available under CVP contracts” and that the board charged “arbitrary” fees to other permit holders.
A hearing on the proposed decision will take place on October 30, according to an AgAlert article, available here. Judge Cadei could affirm or modify the decision at the hearing.
The case, California Farm Bureau Federation v. California State Water Resources Control Board, was consolidated with a similar case filed by the Northern California Water Association and other plaintiffs.