District discusses Adjudication law suit

District discusses Adjudication law suitPublishers Note: In last weeks edition of The News Review, we published the portion of the September 13 District meeting that discussed their refusal of the City’s request to finance their portion of the Replenishment Fee. The last part of the meeting related to the District’s filing of the Adjudication lawsuit.

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The Water District authorized Doug Evertz who came from Orange County to address some of the representation and what it means to file an adjudication. Jim Worth, the District’s legal counsel, said that Evertz is uniquely qualified, he specializes in water rights as well as valuation issues and condemnation.

The main purpose of the comprehensive adjudication long term is to bring certainty. To have a permanent solution and to allow for growth, if the land use authority jurisdictions want to go that direction. The Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) concedes that neither the GSP nor the Groundwater Authority has the ability to determine groundwater rights. The GSP will also tell you that the GA and the GSP have no jurisdiction over the federal government, a main player in the valley. There is only one way to get the federal government involved in this. The government is immune from state court jurisdiction. It cannot be sued in state court unless there’s a statute that provides: the McCarran Amendment.

That Amendment provides that if all parties who have water rights are brought into a water rights Adjudication, the federal government waives its “sovereign immunity” and can be brought into the lawsuit. That’s one of the reasons that the board authorized the filing of this lawsuit so we could have the federal government involved and at the table.

The Antelope Valley’s attorney is going to be the lead attorney for the federal government in this case. He was the lead attorney in the in the Antelope Valley Adjudication.

Worth mentioned without the Adjudication we’d still be facing a limited physical solution lawsuit brought by Mojave Pistachios. You hear the term physical solution, all it means is a settlement, a court imposed order that effectively manages the groundwater basin with the players involved. Worth said, “There was discussion at the City Council meeting that I heard the word Armageddon used several times. No this is not Armageddon and there is no intention to cut everyone’s or anyone’s water rights back by 75%. What a water rights Adjudication normally does this is what occurred in the Antelope Valley or what occurred in the Mojave River Adjudication. Water rights are determined for each pumper.

There are a lot of creative things that can be done. Agricultural interests can transfer those water rights and sell them. Without adjudication you cannot transfer a groundwater right. Water producers can produce their water right essentially for free, but if they want to produce water above and beyond what they are allocated, then there’s a fee that goes with that and that fee can be used for a variety of things. It could be used for imported water, recycled water, or a brackish water program. The goal of the Adjudication is to bring everybody back to the table.”

The Department of Water Resources, (DWR) sent a letter to the District, offering to assist in getting stakeholders involved. The District voted to work with DWR.

Stan Rajorta, commented, “I believe the solution to the current water problems is that the District and the City work together in the mutual interest of the ratepayers and the citizens.”

Rajorta reminded everyone that the District sent a letter to the city in May of 2020, recommending a cooperative partnership to recycle water. Rajorta said, “The last paragraph of the letter says: The IWVWD is formally requesting a commitment from your City Council for city and District staff to initiate negotiation when appropriate on an agreement meeting both our objectives in the best interest of citizens of Ridgecrest; and the District’s ratepayers look forward to your response. We never got a response. The message was clear, the City did not want to work with the District.” Rajorta stated, “I have told Director Hayman to give me a call if he had a question regarding District intentions, however instead of a phone call recently the City published a five page manifesto against the District.

I think a five minute or ten minute phone call to either me or to our General Manager should have been able to answer most of the misunderstandings that were in that manifesto.

Partnering is a two way street I think we need continue to communicate ... we don’t need to talk through a lawyer we don’t need to talk through a general manager.”

Rajorta also brought up that the City has indicated that it could take up to 20 years to resolve the adjudication lawsuit. “I think it’s just fearmongering.”

My feeling is if we get together we talk about it, we communicate… 20 years is a totally ridiculous number.”

Laura Austin photo: Jim Worth introduced Doug Evertz who explained the Water District’s Adjudication lawsuit.

Story First Published: 2021-09-24