Administrative Hearings Office
With water rights in California historically involving complex and often contentious issues, the state legislature in 2018 adopted, and Governor Brown approved, Assembly Bill 747, which enacted Water Code sections 1110-1114, effective July 1, 2019. See 2018 Cal. Statutes, Chapter 668.) Water Code section 1110 created the Administrative Hearings Office (“AHO”) “as a neutral, fair, and efficient forum for adjudications.” The AHO is overseen by a presiding hearing officer appointed by the State Water Board.
Water Code section 1112, subdivision (a), provides that the AHO shall preside over most hearings involving administrative civil liability complaints and proposed cease-and-desist orders in water-right matters and proposed revocations of water-right permits and licenses. In addition, subdivision (c) provides that the State Board may assign other adjudicative hearings to the AHO, may ask the AHO to assist to Board or a Board member in conducting hearings, and may request the AHO to perform other work, including non-adjudicative matters, mediations, and overseeing investigations.
Water Code section 1114 provides that, normally within 90 days after the matters are submitted, AHO hearing officers shall adopt final orders in water-right proceedings involving administrative civil liability, and shall prepare proposed orders for consideration by the Board in all other proceedings.