Nov 26, 2018

Lawsuit Threatens California River

The California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act’s intent is to ensure all beneficial uses supported by the groundwater basin be protected from over pumping

The California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act’s intent is to ensure all beneficial uses supported by the groundwater basin be protected from over pumping
The California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act’s intent is to ensure all beneficial uses supported by the groundwater basin be protected from over pumping.

About four years ago, the Santa Barbara Channelkeepers filed suit against the city of Ventura, Calif. According to the Ventura County Star, the suit was an attempt to ensure that the city does not over pump it’s wells in the Foster Park area.

Since the filing, the state has passed the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The act mandates that agencies and individuals develop groundwater management plans by 2022. According to the Ventura County Star, the intent of SGMA is to ensure all beneficial uses supported by the groundwater basin be protected from over pumping in a unsustainable way.

According to the Ventura County Star, this affects more than the traditional out-of-stream beneficial uses, such as domestic, agricultural and industrial water users. The plan for the Upper Ventura River Basin and the Ojai Groundwater Basin is currently underway.

Ventura has started taking the initial steps toward a full adjudication of the Ventura River Basin watershed. According to the Ventura County Star, the court can assign a “water master” to ensure that pumping conforms to limits defined by the adjudication.

According to the Ventura County Star, this requires every water agency and private well owner within the watershed to become a cross-defendant in the Santa Barbara Channelkeepers’ lawsuit against the city.

However, the SGMA requirements do not apply to an adjudicated basin. The purpose behind Ventura’s move toward an adjudication may be to avoid the new environmental groundwater basin management requirements being applied to the Ventura River and Ojai Groundwater basins.

According to the Ventura County Star, this looks to be an attempted end-run around the lawsuit by the Friends of the Ventura River vs. the city of Ventura and Casitas Municipal Water District. The Friends of the Ventura River won the lawsuit, which went all the way to California’s Supreme Court, preventing the city and the district from diverting and storing spring and summer surface flow in the Ventura River.  

Local, state and federal agencies have expended a considerable amount of time, energy and money to protect and restore the once highly productive runs of Southern California steelhead in the river, according to the Ventura County Star.

The State Water Resources Control Board has required the Ojai Valley Sanitary District to treat its wastewater and to discharge it into the lower Ventura River for the steelhead’s benefit.  

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