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Ronald B. Robie

Ronald B. Robie, an associate justice on the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, has made his mark on state water issues during a career in public service that has spanned all three branches of government.

In the 1960s while serving in the Legislature as the first consultant to the Assembly Committee on Water, he is credited with writing many influential water laws, including the Burns-Porter Act, which authorized the State Water Project. At a hearing Sept. 14, 1960 at the state Capitol, he was introduced by Chairman Carley V. Porter, who said, “We have a new very able addition to our staff, Mr. Ron Robie who is now attached to our committee. He is one of the legislative interns and I feel his work will benefit the committee.”

From 1969-1975, he was a member and vice chair of the State Water Resources Control Board under Governor Ronald Reagan. From 1975-1983, he was the director of the California Department of Water Resources during Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr.’s first two terms as governor.

During his tenure the state endured the worst drought since the 1930s, water conservation became a new concept and three potential Delta solutions, including the Peripheral Canal, were on the table. In 1983 Brown appointed him to the Sacramento Municipal Court bench; he was elected to the Sacramento County Superior Court in 1986; and in 2002, Governor Gray Davis appointed him to his current position as associate justice.

Water’s renaissance man, he is a professor of environmental law and water law; a journalist who has written extensively on water policy; co-convener of “Dividing the Waters,” an educational project for water judges, masters and referees affiliated with the National Judicial College; and a longtime member of the Water Education Foundation Board of Directors. The State Water Project’s Thermalito Pumping-Generating Plant at Oroville was renamed in 2012 as the Ronald B. Robie Thermalito Pumping-Generating Plant in his honor.

He was chosen by the Water Education Foundation’s Anne J. Schneider Foundation to give the inaugural lecture in the memory of Anne Schneider in support of the foundation’s efforts to encourage professional and personal commitment to water law and policy. Toward the conclusion of his speech, titled “What Is, What Has Been, And What Ought To Be,” he said, “You owe a duty to do as Anne did, to seek comprehensive and fair-minded solutions for the intractable water issues that we face every day, and that we will face more and more as our great state continues to grow. Indeed, I encourage the entire water community — attorneys and clients, legislators and administrators, activists and citizens alike — to shed the parochial, self-interested viewpoints that have too often been the hallmark of California water law and policy in the past, and to embrace a broader, more public-spirited point of view.”

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