Judge ponders getting water expert’s advice

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Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News senior reporter

A decision to appoint an independent hydrology expert in a mammoth water lawsuit could come Oct. 18 at 1:30 p.m. 

At the next status conference in the Ventura River Watershed Adjudication lawsuit, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William F. Highberger may announce whether he wants help with the case.


Highberger said at the previous case management conference on Sept. 20 that he would hold off on making his decision until all expert disclosures and witness reports had been served with the court, "to frame the battle better.”

Sept. 24 was the deadine for major parties other than the city of Ventura to file their disclosures and reports.

The other major parties are the State Water Resources Control Board, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California Parks Department, Casitas Municipal Water District, the city of Ojai and the East Ojai Group.

As ordered by the court, the city of Ventura was first to serve its disclosures and reports on Aug. 31.

All other parties were given until Oct. 22.

The motion requesting the court appoint a neutral water expert was filed in July by Claude R. Baggerly and Patricia E. Baggerly of Meiners Oaks.

A phase 1 trial date has been set for Feb. 14 where the city of Ventura will try to show that the four Ojai Valley groundwater basins are connected to the Ventura River.

Lawyers for the city of Ventura told the court the phase 1, non-jury trial will likely run 10 to 15 days. 

During phase 2 of the trial, Ventura will attempt to prove the propriety of the draft physical solution being proposed by the city, Ventura River Water District, Meiners Oaks Water District and several large agricultural water users.

A date for the phase 2 trial has not been set.

During the Sept. 20 status conference, Highberger said he planned to contact other judges who have presided over similar water cases to see if they found having an independent expert useful.

Remarks from attorneys for the state and the city of Ventura that the court should “leave to the experts” the recently released draft watershed modeling done by their clients “suggests that I may well need an expert,” Highberger said.

For information on attending status conference court sessions remotely via LACourtConnect or in-person, visit:

To learn more about the case, see: 


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