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Water rights fee challenges end

Issue Date: November 28, 2018

In the wake of a final, adverse appellate court decision, the California Farm Bureau Federation and other groups have decided to end their legal challenges to water rights fees imposed annually by the State Water Resources Control Board.

CFBF Senior Counsel Carl Borden said Farm Bureau and the other groups had challenged in court the fee imposed for the 2003-04 fiscal year as an unconstitutional tax. Agreeing with the challengers, a trial court ruled the fee invalid in 2013.

But earlier this year, the California Court of Appeal overturned that favorable decision. Both the California Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court denied review of the unfavorable appellate court decision.

Given that adverse precedent, the groups decided not to pursue challenges to the fee imposed in each later year, including this year's fee.

"The challenges to the later years' fees have been on hold, pending the outcome of the case involving the first year's fee," Borden said.

"Those challenges would have to overcome the unfavorable appellate court decision on the first year's fee, and those odds are highly unlikely," he said.

At this point, Borden said, the main way to offset the fee would be through legislation that provides greater funding for the Division of Water Rights through the General Fund or other sources, therefore reducing the burden on holders of water rights fees and licenses.

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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