IWV Water District clarifies adjudication lawsuit

IWV Water District clarifies adjudication lawsuitBy Patricia Farris

News Review Publisher

Indian Wells Valley Water (IWVW) called a special meeting at the Council Chambers on Tuesday, December 14 to give background information on the district’s decision to file a comprehensive adjudication lawsuit.

The purpose of the lawsuit is to “help bring certainty with respect to water rights in the IWV basin,” according to District Council Jim Worth.

The legal action could take years to resolve at an unpredictable cost to taxpayers but it is the best solution to local water issues because it would force the Navy to participate according to the district’s lawyers.

Worth stated that his hope that the action will determine final water rights to all pumpers in the basin including the Navy. Worth said. “The district decided to file the action largely because a comprehensive adjudication is the only type of lawsuit since the Navy or  federal government has waived its immunity and subjected itself to state rights. That’s the only form where you can get the Navy to participate and get a final and binding adjudication to what the Navy’s water right is.”

How long this process will take is unpredictable. Actions in other areas have taken many years to resolve, (as in Antelope Valley, 20+ years.) The cost is likewise unpredictable.

“The adjudication will involve all entities that may claim water rights in this basin,” Worth said. “Consequently all individual pumpers and landowners using the local basin are parties to the action. The district expects to serve or send out 22,000 mailers next week or shortly thereafter with more contact information. I know you have received a lot of notices recently from the various agencies here.  This is not one you want to just throw away. it could have long-term impacts on your water rights.” A second meeting will be scheduled after the mailers are sent to all parties named in the action.

It was explained that residents of Ridgecrest who receive their water through the water district are not named in the action but stand to share in the long-term legal costs by way of increased water rates.

Mayor Pro-Tem Scott Hayman, who sits as chairman on IWV Groundwater Authority (GA), asked if the district is prepared for the cost of adjudication and how the cost would impact rate payers.

“The water district has considered the cost and is willing to go on,” Worth said. He added, “The cooperation among stakeholders would expedite the process and lower the cost but if people continue to fight, it will cost more.”

The next court date for the adjudication is March 15, 2022 for a status conference with the judge. This lawsuit will be held in Orange County as it cannot be filed in a district overlying the basin district, legal sources said.

Laura Austin Photo: Jim Worth, IWVWD legal counsel

Story First Published: 2021-12-24