My Visit to the DWR

With so much water this year, you probably think the state wouldn’t care about water for the coming growing season. Well, I am one of the lucky ones who got a stinging letter from the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to wit: we have discovered dam sites impounding water on your property, and you are subject to a large fine and other such things such as tear down the dams, fill them in, or apply for water rights.

I built two small dams 40 years ago on my Hopland Ranch. I quickly applied to the state to get a permit and ultimately a license for the two ponds behind the dams that did impound water. I knew at some time the state would come a calling. 

Well, the state came a calling with a threatening letter. I then responded by hiring a civil engineer at considerable expense and filed what is known as an application for a water permit. Of course, with lots of expenses attached. I used some local people and the application was accepted by the state. Then the unthinkable happened. My house and office burned down with all of my paper water files. 

My contact at DWR was a young man. I explained my situation and he put our application on hold. After about a year he called and informed me they really needed to move the application along. This started a massive amount of dialogue that not only included him but two other people. Because we were now working with two sets of water rights, a suggestion was made by them that they may be better able to understand my application for the two dams if I came to Sacramento. 

So on Monday I had an appointment in Sacramento at DWR to meet with two of the water police. Unfortunately, my initial contact person was taking the week off to go to his brother’s wedding in Tennessee. He assured me that the other two water police could handle the meeting. In addition, I made sure that the copy lady, who had been so helpful to me the previous week, would be available. There is a limit of how many copies of documents you can request at any one time. So, I made a reservation for Sunday night at a motel in Sacramento so I would be as fresh as a daisy on Monday morning for my meeting with the copy lady and the two water police. 

The water police are located in the EPA building right in the center of Sacramento. Parking is across the street, so with my handicapped blue plastic tag I parked fairly close. I could not enter the closest door because that was for employees only. I had to walk clear around this grand edifice. Sure enough, security made me sign in, get a badge, and informed me I was only allowed up to the first two floors. This building has sixteen floors. You want to know where our tax dollars go? Try the California EPA building in downtown Sacramento.

I wandered up to the second floor and down the hall to the assigned room. I expected to find a meeting room with a table and chairs. Instead I found a holding cell-sized space with three computers on a shelf. A sliding window allowed me to ring a bell for the madam copy lady. Pretty soon, at the agreed time of 9am the other two water police arrived. Their title had something to do with “data,” Water right cop number three did not even have a card, which tells you how long he had been employed. Neither one was the person I needed to see to make my situation understood. Never mind that I had volunteered to come to Sacramento to help them understand about my two different water rights. They did help me get copies of much needed documents dated back to 1954, when my grandfather first filed for water rights. Madame copy lady could have done all of that, in fact, when I arrived; she gave me the one sheet she had previously found for me stating that was all she could find.

After four hours I finally helped copy lady to find eight folders weighing some five pounds. The staff I needed were either not working that day, unavailable, or unprepared to allow me to help them understand the difference between the 1954 and the later water rights application filed in 1986. (You get to pick) We never did get to my current application for new water rights which started all of this. I did however get a list of seventy water rights consultants who could be hired to help me. Mind you, these are not attorneys, just consultants. So, if you need help with water rights, I will sell you this list for a fee. Please contact me thru the AVA.

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