Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Ventura Initiates Adjudication

January, 2020 - Over 10,000 residents in the Ventura River watershed were formally served with a legal notice of water rights adjudication.  The City of Ventura initiated this adjudication in response to Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper's legal action to compel the city to leave water in the Ventura River.  Pumping at the City's Foster Park well field has dried up the river for months at a time during the recent drought.  The City's cross complaint contends that upstream pumping and diversion are part of the problem.

This action, taken without any advanced notice, has created confusion and community backlash against the City.

Perhaps most confusing is how this legal action will affect ongoing efforts by local water agencies to comply with the State Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).  This state law was enacted in 2014 to develop sustainable management of groundwater basins throughout California.

"the SGMA process offers a lot of promise in bringing local groups together to devise groundwater management solutions that are tailored to local conditions.  When stakeholders come together and agree, they have good leadership, then the path forward is going to be a lot smoother.  

... the Las Posas and City of Ventura adjudications will be the first under the new law, so it will be interesting to see how these cases lay the foundation for how the SGMA process in these streamlined adjudications will play out on the ground.  

Even with the new legislation, adjudications are going to remain expensive, time consuming, and take a lot of resources...

...in advancing the SGMA process, if people can’t come together to come to an agreement, there are probably ways to use those streamlined adjudications to establish clear deadlines in how to move forward while also creating certainty around pumping rights."

- Christina Babbitt, Environmental Defense Fund
            (see CA WATER LAW SYMPOSIUM: Groundwater adjudication under SGMA)

And they say imitation is the highest form of flattery: the City of Ventura buys VenturaRiver.com domain for their delayed PR campaign: https://venturariver.com

Below are links to news and information that help explain the complexities surrounding this issue:

Adjudication and SGMA:

Ventura River Watershed Adjudication Website, City of Ventura

 Restoring Flows in the Ventura River, Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper

Introduction to SGMA, The Groundwater Exchange

CA WATER LAW SYMPOSIUM: Groundwater adjudication under SGMA, Maven's Notebook, March 21, 2019

Groundwater Pumping Allocations under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, Environmental Defense Fund, July 2018

 Handbook for Water Budget Development: With or Without Models, California Department of Water Resources (DWR), draft Feb 2020


Local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies:

Upper Ventura River Groundwater Agency 

Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency

In the news:

Ventura vs. Ojai: Water war escalates — Certified letters with legal notices and summonses flood Ojai Valley, Ojai Valley News, Thursday, 09 January 2020

Watershed adjudication is the nuclear option VC Star Opinion by Alasdair Coyne, Jan 25, 2020                                                                                                  

Watershed Moment - Petrochem sold as water war looms in the Ventura River Watershed, VC Reporter, Jan 15, 2020

City of Ventura faces calls to drop legal action, water adjudication, VC Star Feb 1, 2020

Thousands served, noticed in Ventura's water lawsuit may get reprieve, VC Star, Feb 4, 2020


Casitas backs extension for 14000 or so people served, noticed in Ventura's water lawsuit, VC Star, Feb 17, 2020

Court expected to decide this week on extension for those noticed in Ventura River lawsuit, VC Star, Feb 24, 2020

Court Grants Extension in Ventura River Lawsuit, VC Star, Feb 27, 2020

Guest columnist: Water lawsuit is about more than a fish, Ben Pitterle, Your Turn, VC Star, March 7, 2020

On this blog:

ChannelKeeper sues to save a drying river

ChannelKeeper settlement on City's pumping