State Law Governing Reclamation Districts

(50000-53901, Water Code)

Reclamation districts are governed by a board of trustees that are appointed by the County Board of Supervisors or are elected directly from the populations they serve (50650). The board of trustees can consist of three, five or seven members and have the power to do all things necessary or convenient for accomplishing the purposed for which the reclamation district was formed (50900). The owners of the majority of acreage in the district may vote to adopt governing bylaws (50370). A district may, by resolution of the board, provide a procedure for the collection charges and fees, by way of the tax bills of the county or counties in which such district is located (50904).

In order to form a reclamation district a petition must be presented to the County Board of Supervisors signed by no less that 50% of the population of registered voters within the proposed districts territory (50300). A reclamation district can consist of any body of swamp and overflow, salt-marsh or tidelands, or other lands subject to flood or overflow, susceptible of one mode of reclamation who desires to reclaim the land (50303). Reclamation districts can provide drainage, levee maintenance or irrigation services.

The State Lands Commission, upon receipt of a copy of a petition, or certificate of the county clerk that a district has been formed, shall number the district and send a notice containing the number so assigned to the county recorder of the county from which the copy or certificate came (50333). If two or more districts consolidate or reorganize to form a single district the State Lands Commission shall assign to the consolidated district the number of the original district containing the largest area of land, and the consolidated district shall there after be known by such number (53504).


An Overview by Richard E. Marshall June 17th, 1992

As early as 1500, the area along Elk Slough, also known as Elkhorn Slough, was inhabited by the Ylamne, a Miwok indian tribelet. A Miwok speaking people, they were related by marriage and military alliances to other Miwokan tribelets nearby as well as several along the Consumnes River, near the city of Elk Grove. Inhabiting the area until 1836, the group was severely impacted by the outbreak of malaria which caused widespread death throughout the Delta Region.

Shortly after California became a state the federal government, by the passage of the “Arkansas Act’ in 1850*, granted by patent to each state for the purpose of reclamation, all unsold swamp and overflowed lands within the latter’s boundaries. The fees collected from the sale of the land was to be applied to the reclamation of the lands.

In 1855, California passed an act providing for the sale of these lands at $1.00 per acre with payments over five years, a 320 acre limit, and, when paid over time, at least one-half of the land had to be reclaimed within the said period or otherwise forfeited. Only a few thousand acres were sold under this act. The act of 1855 was repealed and another act was passed in 1858 which abolished the credit system and the obligation to reclaim one-half of the land. The $1.00 per acre payments were placed in a swamp land fund with no provision for reclamation. In 1859 the acreage limitation was increased from 320 acres to 640 acres. In addition, terms of 20% down and five years to pay were allowed on the balance.

*Reclamation Board, 4th Biennial Report of 1918