News

News

Ventura’s water claims may be put to the test: Lawsuit hearing June 21

web shutterstock 358044719
Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News Senior Reporter
The judge in the Ventura River Watershed Adjudication lawsuit will hear motions to bifurcate, and appoint an independent water expert, at the next status conference in the case set for Monday, June 21 at 1:30 p.m.
The motion to bifurcate, or split the case into two separate phases, was made by the city of Ventura and other major parties in the case.
If Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William F. Highberger grants bifurcation, the first phase of the case would involve establishing groundwater basin boundaries and the interconnectivity, if any, between the four basins and surface waters within those boundaries.
Parties in the case have contested the connectedness between surface flows and the basins, including the Upper Ojai Groundwater Basin, Highberger said at a Feb. 9 case management conference.
The second phase of the bifurcated case would involve deciding the propriety of the proposed physical solution.
The physical solution, a proposed plan to protect the Ventura River watershed and those who rely on it, was a collaboration between the city of Ventura, the Ventura River Water District, Meiners Oaks Water District, Taylor Ranch, Rancho Matilija Mutual Water Company and other agricultural water users.
The proposal has no bearing on water rights or allocations, but outlines steps that need to be taken to return the watershed habitat to good condition, and then keep it that way.
At the most recent status conference in the case May 10, Highberger said the proposed physical solution would be available to share with the court for the first time June 21, but it would not be lodged until the court deals with any objections to the process on that date.
Objections to the court getting the proposed physical solution needed to be filed by June 14.
Also set for the June 21 status conference is a hearing on a motion to appoint an independent water expert, or “special master” to assist with the case.
The lawsuit is the result of a cross-complaint filed by the city of Ventura against thousands of property owners in the Ojai Valley and Ventura.
The case began in 2014 when nonprofit environmental group Santa Barbara Channelkeeper sued the city of Ventura and the State Water Resources Control Board for taking too much water from the Ventura River, to the detriment of endangered southern steelhead.
Interested parties can attend status conferences in the case remotely through the court’s Remote Audio Access Program.
To register to listen to the conference set for the Spring Street Courthouse, Department 10, see https://my.lacourt.org/remoteaudio/welcome.
The case number is 19STCP01176.

 

Not a subscriber?  choose your subscription plan.