Assemblyman Gray Secures Rare Victory for Water Rights Holders

Saturday, September 16, 2017

For Immediate Release: September 16, 2017
Contact: Adam Capper – (916) 319-2021

SACRAMENTO – Assemblyman Adam C. Gray’s (D-Merced) announced the landmark passage of water rights fairness legislation after the bill received final approval on the last day of the Legislative session. The bill requires that unbiased administrative law judges conduct water rights enforcement hearings, instead of the State Water Board.

“The region I represent is the target of a massive water grab from the State Water Resources Control Board,” said Gray. “A water grab of this size would cost the local economy hundreds of millions of dollars. Despite receiving thousands of comments refuting the faulty science contained in their report, and repeated requests from community leaders to fully consider the impact of jeopardizing the drinking water supply of thousands of people, the water board is poised to dismiss our concerns and adopt the report. If there is any lesson this fight has taught me, it is that the Legislature has handed far too much power over to bureaucrats who simply do not care about the people I represent.”

AB 313 establishes a new water rights management structure, creating a new Water Rights Division in the Office of Administrative Hearings to handle all water rights matters. The shift removes conflicts of interest and built-in biases in the current system. The State Water Board has the power to write regulations, initiate enforcement actions, and conduct hearings in its own courtroom in which Board staff act as the prosecution and Board members act as judge and jury.

“Throughout my time in the legislature, I have been working to restore fairness and create checks on the power of unelected bureaucrats on the State Water Board,” continued Gray. “The passage of AB 313 is a step in the right direction. This bill levels the playing field by ensuring that water rights holders receive the same due process and objectivity that our justice system promises everyone – nothing more, nothing less.”

Under AB 313, administrative law judges in the new Water Rights Division would handle all water rights matters, providing a neutral body for hearings regarding those complicated, and often controversial, issues. The bill ensures an efficient, productive transfer of power to the new Water Rights Division, preventing any duplication of work or similar responsibility to fall under the SWRCB.

The bill now heads to Governor Brown for his signature.


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Assemblymember Adam C. Gray represents the 21st Assembly District which includes all of Merced County and portions of Stanislaus