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OVN EDITORIAL and OP-ED from Ojai mayor pro tem: Ventura City Council: End this water war on the Ojai Valley

web Screen Shot 2021 08 06 at 10.37.26 AM

Ojai Valley News letter to Ventura City Council:

To Mayor Rubalcava and Ventura City Council:

Why are you suing nearly 14,000 of your Ojai Valley neighbors and Ventura constituents? We were told originally that it was because you were being sued by Santa Barbara Channelkeeper. Now that the case against you has been dismissed, why are you still suing us?

Attorneys laughed in Los Angeles Superior court recently when Judge William Highberger said the case will go on so long that, eventually, this will be a job for his successors. Best, Best & Krieger attorneys have structured their yacht, mansion and retirement plans, guessing you will not bother to do your due diligence for your constituents and fi gure out that you are being taken for a ride.

Do the Ventura voters have the stomach for an adjudication of the watershed? Ventura is only 18 months into the adjudication process, and spending $1 million per year (more than $7 million since the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper suit began). This likely 15- to 40-year adjudication has a potential regional cost of up to a billion dollars without bringing one single drop of water to the region. Do Ventura residents know why they are suing their neighbors? Why are they?

Joseph Feller wrote of an Arizona adjudication still going on since 1974:

“One does not ‘get out’ of the Gila adjudication. It is a sort of judicial black hole into which light, sound, lawyers, water — even Judge Goodfarb — indeed, whole forests of paper, will disappear. The only way out is the other end.”

The window of opportunity for our region to get out of this adjudication is closing and only the Ventura council can stop it.

After Ojai Valley News Publisher Laura Rearwin Ward spoke to the Ventura Council on Aug. 2 asking for a dismissal of the water lawsuit, City Attorney Gregory Diaz mumbled and defl ected through a response, culminating in an unintelligible conclusion, but this much was clear:

“We are in a major battle. The battle is not really with the Ojai Valley, the battle is really with our friends at the state, that have come out with potential restrictions on use of the river that are even worse than the lawyers, the city's lawyers, have predicted.”

Mr. Diaz was referring to a California Department of Fish and Wildlife report submitted to the State Water Board about the flow restrictions needed to sustain a healthy habitat in the river. The report demonstrates a complete failure in work product and is generally believed to be junk and lacking in scientific basis, by almost every water expert, water agency, attorney and citizen who has spoken publicly or privately to the OVN. But State Fish and Wildlife will not be setting the flow requirements for the Ventura River. Instead, the State Water Board will be adding the Fish and Wildlife report to its own hydrology report that has yet to be completed. Next, the State Water Board will begin the process of setting flow requirements and making them policy.

The OVN finds Mr. Diaz’s excuse of blaming the state to be specious, and using the complexity of the issues to cloud the decades ahead of draining Ventura/Ojai bank accounts and sucking Ventura voters dry while they destroy relationships upstream.

It is the Ventura councilmembers’ responsibility to do their research, especially in light of the fact that the attorneys have a financial interest in this case, with zero investment in this county's way of life. Where is the return on investment? Ventura City Attorney Diaz cannot pencil it out. This lawsuit is YOUR choice and you seven are the only people among tens of thousands that can bring peace, and an opportunity for cooperation. Will you?

Let’s start over, as good neighbors, to solve together the huge, serious regional water issues that lie before us. The cost of this suit could buy us the state water connections, a desalination plant and improve the watershed. This lawsuit prevents us from working together. Please dismiss the lawsuit against the Ojai Valley and your own constituents.

Please take action now; contact your Ventura neighbors and council. Speak to your water rights’ representative. Ask them to dismiss the case.

Call 805- 654-7827 or write the Ventura City Council:

Mayor Sofia Rubalcava: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Joe Schroeder: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Lorrie Brown: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Jim Friedman: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Doug Halter: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mike Johnson: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Jeannette Sanchez-Palacios: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

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Ventura City Council graphic on Aug. 2 City Council meeting agenda (consent calendar item) to pay another $900,000 to Best, Best & Krieger lawyers to sue thousands of Ventura City Council's own constituents and Ojai Valley residents to try to claim their water.

 

Aug. 6, 2021: OP-ED by Ojai City Mayor Pro Tem William Weirick:

'Ventura's adjudication lawsuit is financially and ethically indefensible'

 

Weirick 236x300 webBy William Weirick, Ojai City Council member
Hard to find the best descriptor after witnessing staff on Aug. 2 maneuvering the Ventura City Council into plunking down another cool million on the fool’s errand otherwise known as the Ventura River watershed adjudication. “Leading by the nose ring” or herding “further down the chute” are two that come to mind. It is clear listening to councilmembers’ remarks that they are being advised to stay “inside the bubble” in terms of big-picture information. In other words, staying away from interacting with different points of view because of the litigation they have authorized.

Ventura’s lawyers have been arguing that everyone needs to show their cards all at the same time, while also arguing that they had legions of experts and studies supporting the notion of tight connectivity between all underground aquifers and surface flows at the city’s well field in the Ventura River at Foster Park. In other words, they have been arguing that even though the city sued the entire Ojai Valley partially based on this notion, they did not need to reveal their evidence until those being sued are forced to show their cards simultaneously.

When the judge finally directed the city show its cards first, to divulge all the studies it has represented as extant and definitive, the immediate response from Ventura’s attorneys was to ask staff to get Council to approve another million to do these studies. As an aside, this is what its legal firm is known for — leading their clients down rabbit holes of diminishing-success probability while getting more fees to try to stave off ultimate failure.

The problem for Ventura is that the evidence all along, and with time getting only more definitive, is that the single-most important underground aquifer in the watershed is not one “bowl.” It is demarcated into multiple geological formations and therefore multiple “bowls.” Most importantly, the shallower “bowls” supplying flows between storms into San Antonio Creek (the only connection between the Ojai aquifer and the Foster Park well field) are not meaningfully connected to the larger, deeper “bowl” from which almost all irrigation and domestic water supply is drawn.

In other words, wide swings in elevation for the production layer, where almost all aquifer users are pumping water from, have no measurable effect on San Antonio Creek flows into the Ventura River. The city of Ventura claims these swings are tightly correlated, while not yet producing any evidence in support of this claim. The creek flows come from perched aquifers and stormwater flows, not from the production aquifer.

This is the fool’s errand for which staff has suckered Ventura Council into approving another cool million. When the judge finally had enough, told Ventura it is time to show your cards, to divulge the portfolio that their lawyers told the court already existed, the response was to tell Council they needed to approve another million to put a portfolio together.

Just think about that for a while.

This all stems from the city of Ventura literally pumping the river dry after entering its well field at Foster Park.

For decades.

Being part of the Casitas Municipal Water District and being by far the largest single user of surface reservoir water was not enough. Being the largest single user of water diverted from Coyote Creek, Santa Ana Creek, and the Ventura River surface flows into surface storage does not satisfy Ventura.

The city has schemed for decades to avoid accountability for irresponsible, ecologically damaging diversion from its Foster Park well field, on top of what it consumes from regulated diversion into Lake Casitas.
When finally brought to account for this behavior, the city’s response was to claim “Pueblo water rights,” to assert a myth of tight connectivity between deep-aquifer storage and San Antonio Creek flows, and once again attempt to circumvent new state regulatory protocols meant to achieve watershed sustainability.

It is the same playbook Ventura has followed for years, at the expense of their taxpayers and at the cost of investing in sustainable management of the Ventura River watershed.

The decision-makers in Ventura seem to be incapable of reflecting on the complete lack of any environmental ethics from trying to escape accountability for their ecologically criminal past practices through claiming victimhood status — victimhood from not getting enough water based on “senior water rights” founded on the genocidal exploitation of indigenous peoples. That is what “Pueblo water rights” are. What was here when sustainably occupied by the Chumash before Europeans arrived. The water that was part of the Chumash culture the city of Ventura claims it has first rights to because of Junipero Serra’s mission.

In overall context, the fool’s errand staff just got Ventura City Council to spend more money on is not just a waste of taxpayers’ dollars. It is to continue on a path undermining development of contemporary sustainable management of the entire Ventura River watershed. Adjudication is like urban sprawl — reflecting a mentality that got us to this unsustainable state.
It is ethically and financially indefensible.

 

 

To view the Ventura city water lawsuit information page, visit:

https://www.venturariverwatershedadjudication.com 

 

Some past OVN articles on Ventura city's lawsuit against thousands of Ojai Valley and Ventura residents:

• Jan. 17, 2020, Ojai Valley News reports: "Supervisor candidate LaVere said he would ‘jump’ at chance to end water lawsuit against thousands of Ojai Valley residents," page A3


That article reads, in part: (Matt) LaVere said the decision to sue Ojai Valley residents was “not a mayor decision, it was a City Council decision,” but “I have to own it as mayor. And so I am willing to stand up and own it. I want to be part of a solution. I do not want to be involved in active litigation with people I am representing as supervisor. Trust me. And I want to do anything I can to find a solution.”

 

Jan. 24, 2020, Ojai Valley News reports: "District Attorney's Office receives complaints about Ventura council's secret vote to sue thousands of Ventura County residents"

 

• Jan. 27, 2020, Ojai Valley News reports: "Ventura City Council ... votes to comply with state's open-meeting laws to report its Sept. 9 vote to add thousands to its water lawsuit"

Article includes Sophie Loire's recording of Jan. 27, 2020 Ventura City Council meeting at which it voted to disclose the results of its Sept. 9, 2019 secret vote to sue thousands of Ojai Valley and Ventura residents and the more than $4.4 million it had spent up to that date on the water lawsuit: https://www.facebook.com/ojaivalleynews/videos/173264284009945/

 

• Jan. 30, 2020 Ojai Valley News reports: "Ventura Mayor Matt LaVere, candidate for county supervisor to represent the Ojai Valley and Ventura: 'Nobobdy is going to be adjudicating the watershed' "

Then Ventura Mayor Matt LaVere stated at the public meeting in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Matilija Middle School Auditorium: "It was a nightmare what we put a lot of you through, the fear we put you through, the anguish."

 

• Feb. 6, 2020 Ojai Valley News reports: "Ventura council to request six-month extension for water-lawsuit responses."

In that article, then-Ventura Mayor Matt LaVere was quoted as posting inaccurate information on a Facebook page: 

“I want to share the news that tonight (Feb. 3, 2020) the Ventura City Council voted to join with the Ojai City Council in seeking the Court’s permission to PUT A HOLD on this litigation while the parties finish settlement discussions. This very idea was discussed at the community meeting last week, and I think it is absolutely the right thing to do. That means that if you received a notice, you do NOT need to hire an attorney or do anything else while the parties work out a final resolution." 

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