Justice Ronald B. Robie, who served as the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) fifth director, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Lawyers Association’s Environmental Law Section for his 60 years of contributions to the environmental law field.
“I am deeply honored to receive this award,” Robie said. “But I share it with all my coworkers and those placing confidence in me over these many years.”
California’s water and environmental law was greatly shaped by Robie, who served in all three branches of State government: as a consultant in the legislature, a governor’s appointee, and a judge. He also served as a member and vice chair of the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).
"Justice Robie authored the most important water and environmental law appellate opinion protecting the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, State Water Resources Control Board Cases,” said DWR Attorney and former Chief Counsel David Sandino. “In the opinion, Justice Robie richly described the history of Delta and upheld the validity of environmental measures adopted by the State Board to protect it."
As DWR Director from 1975 to 1982, Robie guided the Department on adapting environmental regulations and confronting complex issues of Delta water quality and water supply. He set the groundwork for CALFED Bay-Delta efforts and guaranteed that several California wild rivers were incorporated in the federal wild rivers system.
During California’s major statewide drought in 1976 – the first since 1934 – he drew high marks from environmental groups for his strong public conservation leadership.
Robie led the construction for several State Water Project’s (SWP) facilities, including Alamo and Warne Powerplants, which have reduced the SWP’s carbon footprint.
DWR renamed the Thermalito Pumping-Generating Plant in Oroville in honor of Robie in 2012.
His career in the Legislature began as a consultant to the Assembly water policy committee in the 1960s. Among his legislative achievements, he wrote the legislation that created the SWRCB in 1967. He also worked with Assemblymember Carley V. Porter, the author of the Burns-Porter Act passed in 1960 that authorized $1.75 billion in general obligation bonds to finance the construction of initial SWP facilities.
Robie was appointed by Governor Ronald Reagan to the SWRCB from 1969 to 1975. He issued several decisions, including the first Delta Decision, the American River Flow Decision, and the New Melones Decision .
In 1983, he was appointed to the Sacramento County Superior Court. In 2002, Governor Gray Davis appointed Robie as an Associate Justice for Court of Appeal of Third District, where he serves today.
A law degree graduate with the highest honors from McGeorge Law School, Robie returned to his alma mater from 1970 to 2013 to teach environmental law. He has served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Water Education Foundation since 2007.
The award was presented at the 29th annual Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite on Oct.18 which was held virtually this year. The conference brings together leaders in environmental, land use, and natural resources law.