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Adjudication is not sustainability and does not serve the public good

WILLIAM WEIRICK, Ojai City Council
As a community, we need to cut through the fog of Orwellian doublespeak being used by the city of Ventura, some water agency elected and appointed officials, and other assorted advocates or apologists for Ventura River Watershed adjudication. Adjudication is not sustainability. Adjudication does not serve the public good. It only serves the interests of lawyers and others benefitting from strife, conflict and a “slice the pie” mentality. It drains resources instead of attracting them.  
 Adjudication binds us to the past without the capacity to face the future. The Ventura City Council can still and must choose between repeating the mistakes of the past or working towards a responsible, collaboratively managed watershed future. Adjudication is the opposite of genuinely sustainable management of the watershed inclusive of all beneficial uses including habitat restoration facing the reality of climate change. Advocates for adjudication are aligned with an obsolete and dysfunctional system which treats each bit of the watershed as a tradeable commodity underlying the numerous tragedies of the commons unfortunately replete in the water history of California. This action by the Ventura City Council is a challenge to the very premise of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act treating watersheds as ecological systems. It is an attempt to “get ahead of” and render irrelevant the ongoing work comprehensively modeling the watershed and its implications for legislatively mandated sustainability plans.
It is not too late for the elected officials with responsibility for this watershed to constructively engage one another and the citizens whom we represent and to whom we are accountable. We need to push for setting an interim stream flow minimum endorsed by the state and implemented by an initial collaborative agreement as a first step towards a full-scale, workable watershed management plan. Elected officials need to insist on getting together to work this out without lawyers in the room. The only ones benefitting from adjudication, the lawyers, need to be out of the room when working out a plan which benefits the rest of us. This is what our well-informed constituents are right and correct to demand from us.
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