JH TOWN COUNCIL TACKLES WATER LAWSUIT PROBLEM

NEW COMMITTEE MEETS JANUARY 8TH

On December 20th, 2007 the Juniper Hills Town Council established a new committee to address our local water lawsuit-related issues. The Water Committee will hold its first meeting on Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at 7:00pm at the Juniper Hills Community Center. The committee was charged with itemizing the list of critical water issues that concern our community the most. After devising this list, the items will be evaluated to determine what course to take for involvement in the Antelope Valley Groundwater Lawsuit. The town council will be meeting as a committee of the whole with interested community members welcome to attend.

 

The creation of the committee was prompted by the information shared with the audience at both the regular December 5th meeting and a subsequent special meeting on December 20th. At the first meeting guest speaker Dr. Gene Nebeker assisted the town council in introducing the community to the issues and background to the on-going lawsuit in the Antelope Valley over who has rights to the water in the basin and in most of the watershed areas (which includes Juniper Hills).

 

Overwhelming interest led to the calling of a special meeting for the sole purpose of having the Dr. Nebeker and attorney Michael Fife provide more detailed answers to the questions posed at the first meeting. Dr. Nebeker and Mr. Fife represent a group of property owners, from large independent farms down to small residential parcels, called the Antelope Valley Groundwater Agreement (AGWA) Association which is the only group involved in the lawsuit that is primarily property owners and has among its goals driving the process toward settlement. An important element of Mr. Fife’s information was that all the property owners in the entire Antelope Valley watershed must become part of the lawsuit whether they want to or not, and any water rights that owners may have reserved in the deeds to their land are at stake.

 

Interest was shown after the AGWA presentation in finding a way to effectively involve the property owners in Juniper Hills in the lawsuit. The list of water-related community interests that the committee is charged to create will be the basis upon which to determine, among many possible options, whether to create a Juniper Hills water group to hire our own attorney and file a petition with the court or possibly joining the AGWA group if our interests align with theirs.

 

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AV GROUNDWATER LAWSUIT BACKGROUND

Who is suing whom?

It is a bunch of lawsuits consolidated into one with the two big corporate “carrot growers” on one “side” and the cities and the water suppliers (AVEK, PWD, LACoWW, LCID, etc.) on the other “side”. The whole bunch of lawsuits are collectively referred to as the “Antelope Valley Groundwater cases”.

 

What are they suing about?

There are, of course, many specifics each party may mention in their legal briefs, but the fundamental issue is: Who gets to have how much of the water in the ground here in the AV. The carrot growers seem to want to keep on pumping, blaming the water purveyors that they are using water that belongs to them, and the cities and the water suppliers think they should have control of all the water in the valley. The end result, whether we like it or not, is that the court will make an “adjudication” (a court-issued permanently binding order) as to how the water will be divvied up – and to whom. A water adjudication is NOT legislative – Sacramento lawmakers are out of the picture – it is strictly judicial – a judge makes the final decision – the judge adjudicates the results in a big document and then the judge administers the adjudication thereafter based on the results in that big document.

Why should anyone care if it’s just these parties fighting over the water? Because the case is about the entire Antelope Valley’s water and the court is compelled to include every single parcel of land that sits inside the judge’s boundary map into the adjudication, not just the carrot growers’ land and the water suppliers’ ratepayers’ land – that means if you have land inside the boundary, the judge can decide whether you get to keep pumping out of your well, whether you have to pay for pumping out of that well, etc.