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OVN EDITORIAL: Casitas conundrum: Don’t feed the sharks

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The city of Ventura has come to Casitas Municipal Water District asking for $10 million — about the same amount Ventura has paid the Walnut Creek legal gang of Best Best & Krieger to attack our dear valley in the adjudication lawsuit.

Ventura wants $10 million from CMWD to connect 7 miles of pipeline from east Ventura to the Calleguas water system. (For an estimated $38 million, Casitas could one day also be connected, but that is not yet planned.) Rather than hat-in-hand or even as a neighbor/partner, Ventura City Water charged up the hill cowboy style, trying to intimidate CMWD with the false claim that it had already agreed to the expense and could not back out. (Our public records request proved there is no official agreement.)

Ventura is suing Casitas, claiming that Ojai Valley water rights, and human rights, are subordinate to its. Why is Ventura pursuing a 15- to 30-year attack on its neighbors when the Channelkeeper lawsuit against it (which was Ventura’s reason for suing us) has been dropped? Please ask Ventura City Council members why they are still suing the Ojai Valley.

How do they propose to repay us for the $10 million interconnect? Their offer is “in-lieu” water, (which is water Ventura won’t take because it won’t need it). What's the plan? After the Casitas board agrees to pay its attackers’ legal fees, Ventura builds the pipeline, then Ventura wins the right to control all the water in the watershed?

Just say no to the Ventura connection.

Ventura doesn’t need our money. Monday, Aug. 2 at 5 p.m., the council is expected to authorize another $900,000 for BBK attorneys, following $900,000 from last December. Ventura clearly has money to spend on water. Rather than helping the city of Ventura finance the lawsuit, the Casitas board should offer it in-lieu money — everything their ratepayers spend on the lawsuit.

Ventura will surely spend at least $50 million on BBK lawyers when it could build a desalination plant instead, or, for much less, hire grant writers for the new infrastructure grants from the state and the federal government. Who is driving this crazy train? The adjudication lawsuit should make a partnership with CMWD a non-starter.

From Casitas, there are conservation penalties for Ojai users, and discounted water rates for Ventura. These penalties are only paid for by Ojai users. Water is sold to Ventura cheaper than it is to the Ojai Valley. Ventura is not assessed penalties, floating at a Stage 1 conservation level, with Ojai teetering on the brink of a Stage 4 emergency. Why does the Casitas board discount its rate? The city of Ventura should be paying many times as much for water, if only to dissuade its charge up the watershed!

The Casitas board stands in a unique position at the perfect moment to stop the neverending Ventura vs. Ojai battle at its beginning. Ventura is listening. The Channelkeeper suit has been dropped. The reason for the lawsuit is gone. But if Casitas Municipal Water District decides to chum the waters and give Ventura money and water rights, the sharks will keep feasting.

CMWD board members need to take a page from “Air Force One,” when Harrison Ford says, “We will not negotiate with terrorists.” Then get started on the proposed Santa Barbara interconnect project. When Ventura drops the lawsuit, Casitas should begin cooperating. It would be wonderful to work again as neighbors, in peace.

The Ojai Valley News has already made these comments at the board meeting. Please join with your voice. Register for public communications prior to the 5:00 p.m. Closed Session on the Adjudication lawsuit Aug. 2 at: https://bit.ly/3jamb5h.

The agenda for the closed session meeting can be found at: https://bit.ly/3lglw4H.

Call: 805-649-2251

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