Proposed Act To Establish The Russian River Irrigation District

Existing law, the California Irrigation District Law, provides for the formation of irrigation districts and grants these districts authority relating to the production, storage, transmission, and distribution of water, among other things. That district law provides for the formation of water districts through a petition and election process.

This bill would provide for the formation of the Russian River Irrigation District within the Russian River watershed within Sonoma County.  Due to the unique and diverse agricultural regions within the Russian River watershed, this bill would establish the boundaries of the district and would exempt the formation of the district from the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000.

Existing law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, requires all groundwater basins designated as high- or medium-priority basins by the Department of Water Resources that are designated as basins subject to critical conditions of overdraft to be managed under a groundwater sustainability plan or coordinated groundwater sustainability plans by January 31, 2020, and requires all other groundwater basins designated as high- or medium-priority basins to be managed under a groundwater sustainability plan or coordinated groundwater sustainability plans by January 31, 2022, except as specified.  The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act authorizes a local agency or combination of local agencies overlying a groundwater basin to elect to be a groundwater sustainability agency for a basin.  If this bill is enacted and the district is created, the district would be a local agency for purposes of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and the district may exercise authorities granted to local agencies in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

This bill would authorize the district to cooperate with the County of Sonoma County, Sonoma County Water Agency, and other agencies on water and natural resource management issues. This bill would provide that the creation of the district would not modify any powers of Sonoma County, the Sonoma County Water Agency, and other agencies.

The bill would authorize the district to provide assistance to water users and water right holders within the district.

This bill would authorize the district to assist landowners and water right holders within the district to manage the diversion and use of water for vineyard and orchard frost protection.

Existing law provides that an assessment levied on a property to fund public improvements and services shall be in an amount proportional to the special benefit enjoyed by the assessed property.  This bill would establish the intent that the district shall levy assessments only to properties with agricultural or resources and rural development zoning designations.  Existing law provides that public agencies may charge a fee for service or regulatory act where the fee does not exceed the estimated reasonable cost of providing the service or regulatory act.  This bill would authorize the district to charge water users and landowners fees for services and other actions related to the district purpose.

This bill would make legislative findings and declarations as to the necessity of a special statute for the County of Sonoma.

The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.  This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.

SECTION 1.

PART 13. RUSSIAN RIVER IRRIGATION DISTRICT

CHAPTER 1.  GENERAL PROVISIONS

§ 1.1.  Creation; name.  

The Russian River Irrigation District is hereby created, organized and incorporated.  The district shall have all powers and authorities of an irrigation district formed pursuant to Division 11, Section 20500, et seq., except as expressly provided herein.

§ 1.2.  Legislative declaration of necessity for enactment of special law.

The Legislature hereby finds that the agricultural sector in the Russian River watershed region within the County of Sonoma is facing urgent water supply, water management, and resource management problems that are unique to the Russian River watershed within Sonoma County.  There are estimated to be over 1000 agricultural producers within the Russian River region, primarily winegrape growers.  These agricultural producers obtain water from a variety of sources including the Russian River and its tributaries, groundwater, and other sources.  With few exceptions, the Sonoma County Water Agency, municipalities, and other specials districts that now exist within portions of the county do not supply water or provide water management services to the agricultural sector.  Instead most agricultural producers in the region divert and use water through individual water rights.  Uncoordinated water diversions, in particular diversions for frost protection and diversions during drought periods, may adversely affect the streamflow of the Russian River and its tributaries and affect the aquatic resources dependent on those streams.  These agricultural producers are unable collectively plan, develop, manage and conserve an adequate water supply, and to manage streamflows and groundwater, of the region.  Agricultural producers may not be adequately represented by the existing agencies that are authorized to form new groundwater sustainability agencies and prepare and implement groundwater sustainability plans for groundwater basins within the Russian River watershed as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  To accomplish these ends it is necessary to have a new political entity encompassing areas within the various agency boundaries.  Further, it is necessary that the district be organized into divisions in such a manner to determine the varying benefits to property located within the district and of the percentage of costs to be split among the divisions created.  The cost of adequate irrigation management is beyond the means of the property owners and taxpayers of the district, and it may be necessary to pursue financial aid from the state and federal government.  Investigation has shown conditions in the Russian River watershed within Sonoma County to be peculiar to it and it is hereby declared that general law cannot be applicable to the region and that the enactment of this special law is necessary for the planning, conservation, development, distribution, control and use of said water for the public good and for the protection of life and property therein.

§ 1.3.  Part shall apply only to the Russian River Irrigation District.

This part shall apply only to the Russian River Irrigation District.

§ 1.4.  Part shall not modify powers or property of Sonoma County and Sonoma County Water Agency.

The creation of the district is not intended to and shall not modify any powers of the County of Sonoma and the Sonoma County Water Agency, carried out consistent with applicable law. The district shall have no power to condemn any property, water rights, or rights to divert and use water of the County of Sonoma and the Sonoma County Water Agency.

§ 1.5.  Cooperation with other agencies.

The district shall not involve itself in activities normally and historically undertaken by Sonoma County, the Sonoma County Water Agency, or other local agency, without the agreement of the agency.

CHAPTER 2. BOUNDARIES; DIVISIONS; ANNEXATION.

§ 2.1.  Boundaries.  

The district shall include all territory, including contiguous or noncontiguous parcels of unincorporated territory and territory included in any public district having similar powers, but excluding the territory of incorporated cities, lying within the Divisions described in Section 2.2.

§ 2.2.  Divisions.

Notwithstanding Section 21550, the territory of the district shall be divided into five divisions:

(a) Alexander Valley Division shall include the territory within the Alexander Valley American Viticultural Area, as described in Section 9.53 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations as of January 1, 2015.

(b) Knights Valley Division shall include the territory within the Knights Valley American Viticultural Area, as described in Section 9.76 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations as of January 1, 2015.

(c) Dry Creek Valley Division shall include the territory within the Dry Creek Valley American Viticultural Area, as described in Section 9.64 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations as of January 1, 2015.

(d) Russian River Valley North Division shall include the territory within the portion of the Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area north of River Road and Mark West Creek Road, as described in Section 9.66 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations as of January 1, 2015, and the territory within the Bennett Valley American Viticultural Area, as described in Section 9.142 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations as of January 1, 2015.

(e) Russian River Valley South Division shall include the territory within the portion of the Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area south of River Road and Mark West Creek Road, as described in Section 9.66 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations as of January 1, 2015.

Notwithstanding Part 4 of Division 11, the board of directors of the district may, by resolution, create, terminate and revise the boundaries of its divisions.

§ 2.3.  Applicability of Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000

The district is not subject to the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 (Division 3 (commencing with Section 56000) of Title 5 of the Government Code).

§ 2.4.  Annexation of territory

Any benefited territory, whether contiguous or noncontiguous, may be annexed to the district and may be described in the annexation proceedings by any description adequate for conveyance of the property.

§ 2.5.  Addition of land to district; Inclusion in division; Relocation of boundary lines; Exclusion of territory from district; Exclusion from division and relocation of boundary lines; When changes not to be made.

Whenever any land is added to the district, the board, by ordinance, shall include it or any part thereof in such division or divisions as the board may determine, giving consideration to the location thereof and the interests of its inhabitants with respect to the sources of water supply therein; and the board shall relocate the boundary lines of the division or divisions to which such territory is added accordingly. Whenever any territory is excluded from the district, the board, by ordinance, shall relocate the boundary lines of the division or divisions within which such territory lies so as to exclude it from such division or divisions. No such change in a division or divisions may be made within three months immediately preceding a general election, nor shall such change work a forfeiture of office of any director. A certified copy of such ordinance, together with a map or plat showing the boundaries of such division or divisions as relocated thereby shall be filed with the county recorder of each county within which any portion of the district lies.

CHAPTER 3.  GENERAL POWERS

§ 3.1  Powers of district; Generally

The district shall have and may exercise all powers and authorities granted to irrigation districts in Division 11 of the Water Code.

CHAPTER 4.  WATER RIGHTS WITHIN DISTRICT.

§ 4.1.  Assistance to Water Rights within District.

The district may assist landowners, water users, and water right holders within the district’s boundaries in the acquisition and protection of water rights and may represent the interests of those parties in water right, regulatory and related proceedings before local, state and federal agencies, and the courts of this state and the United States, to carry out the purposes of the agency.

§ 4.2.  Mutual Water Companies

(a) The district may assist landowners, water users, and water right holders within the district’s boundaries to form mutual water companies, and the district may hold the capital stock and contract with the stockholders to distribute and manage water on behalf of the stockholders.

(b) The district may acquire and to hold the capital stock of any mutual water company or corporation, domestic or foreign, owning water or water rights, canals, waterworks, franchises, concessions, or rights, when the ownership of the stock is necessary to secure a water supply required by the district or any part thereof, upon the condition that when holding the stock, the district shall be entitled to all the rights, powers, and privileges, and shall be subject to all the obligations and liabilities conferred or imposed by law upon other holders of stock in the same company.

CHAPTER 5. GROUNDWATER MANAGEMENT.

§ 5.1.  District is Local Agency for Purposes of Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

The district is a local agency for purposes of subdivision (m) of Section 10721 of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, Part 2.74 of Division 6 of the Water Code, and the district may exercise authorities granted to local agencies in accordance with the provisions of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

CHAPTER 6.  FROST PROTECTION WATER DEMAND MANAGEMENT 

§ 6.1.  Compliance with Frost Protection Regulations

The district may assist landowners and water right holders in the district to comply with any state or federal regulations governing the use of water for frost protection purposes.  The district may assist landowners and water right holders in the district to manage the diversion and use of water for purposes of vineyard and orchard frost protection. The district may serve as a governing body of a frost water demand management program.

CHAPTER 7. ELECTIONS.

§ 7.1.  Elector; Voter.

(a) Notwithstanding Section 20527, or any other provision of law to the contrary, "elector" and "voter" shall mean a person, corporation, or other entity owning land within the district. At any district election in the Russian River Irrigation District, only landowners may vote, and they need not be residents of the district in order to qualify as voters. Each landowner shall have one vote for each dollar's worth of land to which he or she holds title. The last equalized assessment book of the district shall be conclusive evidence of ownership and of the value of the land so owned, except that in the event that an assessment for the district shall not have been made and levied for the year in which the election is held, the last equalized assessment roll of the county in which the land is located shall be used in lieu of the assessment book of the district. Where land is owned in joint tenancy, tenancy in common, or any other multiple ownership, the owners of the land may designate in writing which one of the owners shall be deemed the owner of the land for purposes of qualifying as a voter. In the absence of that designation each owner shall be entitled to vote his pro rata share of the total value of the land in such multiple ownership.

(b) Every landowner, or the legal representative of a corporation, estate, or trust owning land within the district, may vote at any district election, either in person or by a person duly appointed as his proxy.

(c) As used in this section, "legal representative" means any of the following:

(1) An authorized official of a corporation owning land in the district.

(2) The trustees of an express trust which owns land in the district.

(3) The executor, administrator, guardian of the estate, or conservator of the estate of a holder of title to land in the district who is appointed under the laws of this state, is entitled to possession of the land, and who is authorized by the appointing court to vote in the election.

(d) Before a legal representative votes at a district election, he or she shall present to the precinct board a certified copy of his or her authority, which shall be kept and filed with the returns of the election. No appointment of a proxy shall be valid, accepted, or vote allowed thereon at any district election unless it meets all the following requirements:

(1) It is in writing.

(2) It is executed by the person or legal representative of the person who is entitled to the votes for which the proxy is given.

(3) It is acknowledged.

(4) It specifies the election at which it is to be used. An appointment of a proxy shall be used only at the election specified.

(e) Every appointment of a proxy is revocable at the pleasure of the person executing it at any time before the person appointed as proxy shall have cast a ballot representing the votes for which the appointment was given.

CHAPTER 8. BOARD OF DIRECTORS; BOARD POWERS; OFFICERS; MEETINGS

§ 8.1.  Board of directors: Membership; Appointment; Election; Vacancy

(a) The board of directors shall govern the district and shall exercise the powers of the district as set forth in this act.

(b) Except as specified in subdivision (d), the board of directors of the district shall consist of seven voting members, as follows:

(1) One member who shall be a voter or an owner, officer, director, employee or other authorized agent of a voter that holds a water right within the Alexander Valley division. This member shall be elected by the voters within the Alexander Valley division.

 (2) One member who shall be a voter or an owner, officer, director, employee or other authorized agent of a voter that holds water rights within the Knights Valley division. This member shall be elected by the voters within the Knights Valley division.

 (3) One member who shall be a voter or an owner, officer, director, employee or other authorized agent of a voter that holds a water right within the Dry Creek Valley division. This member shall be elected by the voters within the Dry Creek Valley division.

 (4) One member who shall be a voter or an owner, officer, director, employee or other authorized agent of a voter that holds a water right within the Russian River Valley North division. This member shall be elected by the voters within the Russian River Valley North division.

 (5) One member who shall be a voter or an owner, officer, director, employee or other authorized agent of a voter that holds a water right within the Russian River Valley South division. This member shall be elected by the voters within the Russian River Valley South division.

 (6) Two members who shall be voters within the district service area and are engaged in a profession dependent on the agricultural industry or hold water rights within the district boundary.  These members elected at large by the voters within the district boundary.

 (7) An officer, director, manager, shareholder or employee designated by a voter that is not a natural person is eligible to be elected as a member pursuant to paragraphs (1) to (5).

 (8) For purposes of this section, a voter that holds water rights is a voter who is the owner of a water right permit or license, who is the owner of a riparian, appropriative or other claimed water right in an active Statement of Water Diversion and Use, or who claims a groundwater right.

 (c) A quorum of the board of directors shall be four members. A majority of affirmative votes of the full membership of the board shall be required to take an action.

(d)

(1) On or before [date], the county board of supervisors shall appoint the members of the board of directors with the qualifications required by subdivision (b). The members of the board of directors appointed pursuant to this paragraph shall hold office until their successors are elected or appointed and qualified in accordance with subdivision (b).

(2) At the first opportunity to conduct an election, the voters shall elect the members of the board of directors identified in subdivision (b). At the first meeting of the board of directors following that election, the members of the board of directors shall classify themselves by lot into two classes. One class shall have four members and the other class shall have three members. For the class that has four members, the term of office shall be four years. For the class that has three members, the term of office shall be two years. Thereafter, the terms of all members of the board of directors shall be four years.

(3) Except as provided in paragraphs (1) and (2), the term of office for a member of the board of directors shall be four years.

(4) Members of the board of directors may be reelected or reappointed.

(e) Except as otherwise provided in this act, the Uniform District Election Law (Part 4 (commencing with Section 10500) of Division 10 of the Elections Code) shall apply to elections within the district.

(f) Any vacancy in the elective office of a member of the board of directors shall be filled pursuant to Section 1780 of the Government Code. Any vacancy in the appointive office of a member of the board of directors shall be filled pursuant to Section 1778 of the Government Code.

§8.2.  Officers

At the first meeting of the board of directors, and at the first annual meeting each year thereafter, the board of directors shall elect a chairperson and vice chairperson from among its members. The board of directors shall appoint a secretary of the district. The secretary of the district may be a member of the board of directors or a district employee.

§ 8.3.  Meetings

Meetings of the board shall be held pursuant to the Ralph M. Brown Act (Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 54950) of Part 1 of Division 2 of Title 5 of the Government Code).

SECTION 2. 

The Legislature finds and declares that a special law is necessary and that a general law cannot be made applicable within the meaning of Section 16 of Article IV of the California Constitution because of the unique circumstances in the service area of the Russian River Irrigation District.

SECTION 3. 

No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution ...

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