Samuel E. Bivins

Partner

Sam Bivins helps clients secure and protect their water rights at the State Water Resources Control Board and in federal and state courts.

Sam’s practice focuses on water rights litigation and related environmental disputes that can have substantial impacts on critical water supplies for agricultural, municipal, and industrial users. Some of Sam’s most significant matters include the representation of water right applicants seeking to appropriate large quantities of historically unused flood flows from the Kings and Kern Rivers, senior Sacramento River water right holders defending against Endangered Species Act claims brought by environmental interest groups, and landowners who need to protect their groundwater rights from cutbacks associated with the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Sam has also successfully resolved a variety of disputes involving assessments and fees associated with water supply projects and regulatory actions, such as obtaining a defense judgment upholding a California city’s water neutral development fee and recovering substantial amounts of delinquent local agency assessments from the State of California in 2019.

Sam also understands that litigation is rarely the best first step for clients to take in resolving water rights disputes. Sam has resolved many of his clients’ cases without going to court by leveraging relationships with key federal and state officials, and through his pragmatic and collaborative approach to working with opposing parties.

In addition to his litigation practice, Sam provides advice and counsel to public and private clients on water rights and related environmental and constitutional issues. Clients repeatedly look to Sam for help because they know they’ll receive practical, strategic, and straightforward advice delivered in a cost-efficient way.


Professional, Community And Pro Bono Involvement

  • California Water Law & Policy Conference, Co-Chair, 2023
  • California Water Law & Policy Reporter, Editorial Board Member, 2023
  • Sacramento County Bar Association, Environmental Law Section
  • California Lawyers Association, Environmental Law Section
  • Past Member and Chair of the West Sacramento Environment and Utilities Commission
  • Law clerk to The Hon. Morrison C. England, Jr., U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, 2015-2016
  • Reading Partners, Former Board Member
  • Duke Law Journal, 2012-2014

Honors & Rankings

  • Best Lawyers in America©, Ones to Watch, Natural Resources Law, 2024
  • Super Lawyers, Northern California Rising Star, Energy & Resources, 2018-2023
  • Sacramento Magazine, Top Lawyer, Energy & Natural Resources, 2017
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Citation for Outstanding Performance in History
  • UC Davis Fulmor Scholar
  • Represents water storage district in proceedings before the State Water Resources Control Board to obtain new water rights from the Kings River.
  • Represents public agency in proceedings before the State Water Resources Control Board to obtain new water rights from the Kern River.
  • Represents railroad company in ongoing challenge to State Water Resources Control Board compliance order under Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • Represents water users in multiple complex cases under sections 7 and 9 of the federal Endangered Species Act.
  • Successfully defended California city’s water-neutral development fee from statutory and constitutional challenge brought by building industry associations.
  • Initiated first groundwater adjudication under California’s Streamlined Adjudication Law.
  • Successfully recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in delinquent local agency assessments from various California state agencies.
  • Advises a variety of public clients on how to protect their water rights from attack under a variety of state and federal environmental and natural resource laws.

Announcements

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Speaking Engagements / Events

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Legal Alerts

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Publications

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When not advocating on behalf of his clients, Sam enjoys playing golf and tennis, reading, and cooking.


Professional, Community And Pro Bono Involvement

  • California Water Law & Policy Conference, Co-Chair, 2023
  • California Water Law & Policy Reporter, Editorial Board Member, 2023
  • Sacramento County Bar Association, Environmental Law Section
  • California Lawyers Association, Environmental Law Section
  • Past Member and Chair of the West Sacramento Environment and Utilities Commission
  • Law clerk to The Hon. Morrison C. England, Jr., U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, 2015-2016
  • Reading Partners, Former Board Member
  • Duke Law Journal, 2012-2014

Honors & Rankings

  • Best Lawyers in America©, Ones to Watch, Natural Resources Law, 2024
  • Super Lawyers, Northern California Rising Star, Energy & Resources, 2018-2023
  • Sacramento Magazine, Top Lawyer, Energy & Natural Resources, 2017
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Citation for Outstanding Performance in History
  • UC Davis Fulmor Scholar