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Galt Irrigation District lawsuit dismissed

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Posted: Saturday, November 23, 2013 12:00 am

A lawsuit filed by the Galt Irrigation District against three members of a family in Herald, alleging they were illegally diverting district water to their own land, including a parcel leased for caviar production, has been dismissed without prejudice at the request of the district, court records show.

The lawsuit filed last summer named three members of the Silva family — Gary Silva Sr.; his wife, Tildean Silva; and their son Gary Silva Jr. Also named were the Silva Ranch and Sacramento-based Sterling Caviar LLC, a fish farm that leases land in Herald for production of the costly delicacy.

Sterling Caviar, formerly Stolt Sea Farm California LLC, moved to dismiss its cross-complaint in September. However, due to a missed court deadline, the direct shipping company was ordered earlier this month to pay $310 to cross-defendants Leo Van Warmerdam, Melvis Don Darr, George Nicewonger, John Mulrooney and Mike Kenefick.

The irrigation district and its board members claimed the group was diverting the flow of American River water released by the Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District through its Rancho Seco property.

Sacramento County Superior Court records show the irrigation district claimed it had purchased all of that water for $22,000 in 2012 for use by its seven customers — which include agricultural properties within a service area of approximately 34,000 acres near Galt — and has done so for the last 20 years.

Instead, according to the court records, the Silvas were accused of pumping extra water and storing it 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.

According to court records, 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 showed that approximately 16 acre-feet of the SMUD release water was pumped from about June 17 to June 25, 2012.

At the time, Van Warmerdam, irrigation district board chairman, said he discovered the dams when he flew over Hadselville Creek.

Attorneys could not be reached Friday.

However, an attorney for the defendants told the Sacramento Bee earlier this year that the concrete dam is part of a federal project and has been at the site since 1972.

“They tried to make it sound like these things (appeared) just before this contract was signed,” said Kanwarjit “Jit” Dua, an attorney with the law firm Somach Simmons & Dunn in Sacramento. “That’s not the case, and (the Galt Irrigation District) knows that.”

Dua also said that his clients hold a superior right to any natural flowing water and to their own groundwater.

“The allegations in their complaint are just factually untrue,” Dua said. “We think GID knows they are factually untrue.”

When the lawsuit was filed, he said his clients believed that the lawsuit was motivated by certain board members.

“The Silvas are on very good terms with GID customers and some of the board members, which is why, to them, this suit is sort of surprising,” Dua said.

Sacramento Bee staff writer Loretta Kalb contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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