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Galt Irrigation District alleges group is illegally diverting, storing water

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Posted: Monday, August 6, 2012 6:10 am | Updated: 6:39 am, Sat Aug 11, 2012.

The Galt Irrigation District has asked for a restraining order against Herald landowners, claiming they are illegally diverting water purchased by the district from the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District.

The lawsuit claims Gary Silva Sr., Tildean Silva, Gary Silva Jr., Silva Ranch and Sterling Caviar, LLC are diverting the flow of American River water released by SMUD through its Rancho Seco property. The irrigation district claims it has purchased all of that water for $22,000 for use by its customers — and has done so for the last 20 years.

Instead, according to Sacramento County Superior Court records, the group is accused of storing this water for their own use on their property on Clay Station Road near Twin Cities Road. It was reportedly discovered when a fellow customer flew a helicopter over the property.

Neither the defendants nor their attorney could be reached for comment.

The Galt Irrigation District supplies water to seven customers which include agricultural properties within a service area of approximately 34,000 acres near Galt.

The district buys American River water moved through the Folsom South Canal. From the canal, the water flows through a system of creeks and channels. But the water hasn't been reaching the customers who pay for it. Instead, the district contends the Silvas are taking it and storing it in a large pond on their property.

The district alleges that the Silvas, who are district customers, are pumping extra water from the waterway. Meter readings by the district a pump located on property owned by defendants Gary Silva Sr., Tildean Silva and Gary Silva Jr., within the district's service area show that approximately 16 acre-feet of the SMUD release water was pumped from about June 17 to June 25, according to court records filed in late June.

The district believes that the defendants are unlawfully diverting the SMUD release water and storing it behind the dams on their properties. The process has reduced stream flow in the district's service area by approximately 80 percent compared to normal conditions and has caused the flow in Hadselville Creek and Laguna Creek to drop significantly, according to Peter Kiel, the district's attorney.

In addition to the Silvas, Sacramento-based Sterling Caviar is named in the court records. It reportedly operates a business on property owned by the Silvas. In an email sent Monday, representative Peter Struffenegger said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

In court papers, Leo van Warmerdam, irrigation district board chairman, said he discovered the dams when he flew over Hadselville Creek last month. He could not be reached for comment.

Gary Silva Sr., Tildean Silva and Gary Silva Jr., are all members of the adjacent Clay Water District that, along with the Galt Irrigation District, comprise the Southeast Sacramento County Water Authority. Both Gary Silva Sr., and Gary Silva Jr., sit with van Warmerdam on the authority's board of directors.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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