Major agriculture business in Madera County accused of stealing water from an irrigation canal

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When the drought slowed water in the Madera canal to a trickle last year farms across the Valley felt the pain-- and investigators say some resorted to stealing. (KFSN)

When the drought slowed water in the Madera canal to a trickle last year farms across the Valley felt the pain-- and investigators say some resorted to stealing.

"We are talking about enough water to cover an acre of land with 45 and a half feet, that's a lot of water," said David Linn, Madera County District Attorney.

Agriland Farming Company found itself in some of that deep water Wednesday when the Madera District Attorney's Office filed multiple criminal charges. They accused the company of pumping water illegally from a Madera irrigation district canal onto their own property.

"We believe the pump ran for approximately 90 hours, and in that 90 hours it took $80,000 worth of water," said Linn.

Linn said as the drought intensified over the years water theft cases started to pop up across the state. But there are challenges to winning these cases because in California, water is not considered property.

"It makes it very difficult to charge a theft for something that they may have a right in and it's only until it's diverted that you actually have a theft of the water. That's why it's such a complicated law."

The company's CEO, James Maxwell, is also being charged. The company issued a statement saying it was surprised by the reports and it was the first they've heard of the allegations.

Agriland's website states the company manages more than 23,000 acres of land and is one of the largest nut growers in the country.

"We treat every case the same, there aren't any favorites, there aren't any special people," said Linn.

Linn said he believes he has enough evidence to prove criminal trespass among other crimes and he hopes to show that every company, big or small, is equal under the law.
Related Topics:
newstheftagriculturemadera countywater
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