Rosamond Community Services District of Calif. Files Lawsuit Against Two Corporate Giants

Nov. 2, 2005
Response to 1999 and 2001 Lawsuits Filed by Diamond Farming Co. and Bolthouse Farms

The Rosamond Community Services District (RCSD) filed a lawsuit against corporate giants Diamond Farming Company and Bolthouse Farms over access to the Antelope Valley's groundwater basin. The District's action, designed to protect the community's current and future water supply, is in response to existing lawsuits filed by Diamond and Bolthouse in 1999 and 2001, respectively, against Rosamond and other public agencies.

Diamond (owned by Grimmway Farms) and Bolthouse are seeking to take a larger share of water from the Antelope Valley groundwater basin, which provides over 60% of Rosamond's water. Bolthouse and Grimmway, both based in Bakersfield, are multi-million-dollar carrot corporations that together control roughly 90% of the nation's carrot market.

"Our number one priority is to ensure the people of Rosamond have access to a reliable supply of safe, affordable water," said Daniel Landsgaard, Rosamond Community Services District board president. "The RCSD filed this lawsuit to protect the present and future water supply for all of Rosamond, for the livelihood of our families, schools, businesses, parks and more."

Bob Vincelette, a Southern Kern Unified School District board member, agrees. "This lawsuit is about keeping water rates affordable for our community by protecting the local water supply and reducing our dependence on imported water," said Vincelette.

The cross-complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and an adjudication of water rights in the Antelope Valley groundwater basin. The District hopes that the adjudication will lead to a "physical solution," which is a legal term used to describe a long-term basin-wide management program that is often overseen by a court-appointed Watermaster.

"Unfortunately, the two large corporations in this lawsuit have held the Rosamond community hostage by monopolizing our water supply and continuing to irresponsibly pump more than their fair share from the groundwater basin," said Landsgaard. "This lawsuit is about protecting our community's fair share of water, preventing corporate monopolies and keeping water rates affordable."

Rosamond's current water supply is a combination of local groundwater and imported State Water Project water purchased through the Antelope Valley East Kern Water Agency (AVEK). Rosamond began using imported water because of its concern about the groundwater basin not being able to support pumping.

Historically, Rosamond has pumped roughly 2,200 ac-ft (about 717 million gal) water annually from the Antelope Valley, enough water to supply an estimated 4,400 homes per year. With Rosamond filing a cross-complaint in response to the Diamond and Bolthouse lawsuits, the Rosamond Community Services District anticipates that other public agencies, such as the City of Palmdale and the City of Lancaster, will do the same.

In late 2004, Los Angeles County Waterworks District 40 filed a lawsuit naming many of the same agencies in order to give them a say if and when the water rights are adjudicated.

Soon after, in January 2005, L.A. County Waterworks District No. 40 filed the Petition for Coordination to consolidate Diamond's and Bolthouse's actions, filed in Riverside County, with the L.A. County district's action, filed in L.A. and Kern Counties. In April, the water district, the City of Palmdale, Palmdale Water District, Quartz Hill Water District and the City of Lancaster filed a supplemental brief urging the court to coordinate the corporations' actions and L.A. County's adjudication.

All three actions have now been coordinated in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Judge Jack Komar, a neutral judge from the Santa Clara County Superior Court, has been appointed to preside over the action. Diamond and Bolthouse argued that the actions and adjudications should remain separate.

Since the actions sought by the corporations are not full water basin adjudications, the public agencies expressed that it is virtually meaningless and legally unfeasible to proceed with the actions without bringing together other producers in the basin and conducting a full basin adjudication.

At a San Jose conference hearing in September, Judge Komar instructed L.A. County Waterworks District 40 to serve all property owners of more than 100 ac with the lawsuit within 30 days, including Edwards Air Force Base.

Source: Rosamond Community Services District