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Tracking measurable success on preserving and connecting California's Parks & Wildlife Corridors


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Water for nature, farms or developers?--legal fight in SJ Valley

More Lawsuits threaten Tejon Ranch sprawl's water supply

excerpted from:

9/5/2010--A story worthy of Hollywood will soon unfold in California courtrooms -- allegations of government corruption and corporate greed to rival the infamous Los Angeles water grab that inspired the film "Chinatown."

Call it "Chinatown II," a tale beginning 15 years ago -- when, according to lawsuits filed in the last three months, the state illegally turned over the publicly owned Kern Water Bank to an agency controlled by giant corporations in a backroom deal.

Filed by the Tucson, Ariz.-based Center for Biological Diversity, Northern California water districts and a fishing group, two lawsuits seek a court order putting the bank back in state hands. They allege the water bank is controlled by two corporations -- Roll International, owned by billionaire Beverly Hills businessman Stewart Resnick, and Tejon Ranch Co., one of the largest private landowners in California.

A third lawsuit, which includes the Kern water districts, asks the court to stop pumping from the water bank and require further analysis to determine how much water can be pumped without drying up neighboring wells...

...Gaylord Beeson won't forget the Kern Water Bank or July 29, the day his productive water well went dry. Nor will the 32 northwest Bakersfield customers in his small water association.

He blames heavy pumping by his neighbor, the water bank. The water table has dropped 115 feet in the last three years -- something that in the past would have taken two decades....

...Water levels in Rosedale are the lowest since the district was formed in 1959...

...Resnick's Paramount Farms controls 58% of the water bank through property ownership in Westside Mutual Water Co. and Dudley Ridge Water District, the lawsuits say.

Through continuing farmland purchases, Paramount owns 120,000 acres, company officials say, making Resnick one of the biggest farmers in the state.

Tejon Ranch controls another 26% in the same way, the lawsuits say. The company plans the state's largest development -- Tejon Mountain Village, nearly 3,500 homes, dining, shopping and other amenities in the Tehachapi Mountains of southern Kern County.

Barry Zoeller of Tejon Ranch Co. disputes the lawsuits, saying his firm is a minor player with only 2% control of the water bank. The company controls only the Tejon-Castac Water District, he said.

But the legal action says Tejon Ranch also is the majority landowner in the Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Water District, which controls 24% of the water bank....


Meanwhile, Landowners fight over San Joaquin River Restoration's Impacts on their Water Rights

excerpted from:

8/28/2010--The first lawsuit in the San Joaquin River restoration has been filed by a west-side Valley farming family, claiming the replenished flows are damaging 13,000 prime acres, buildings and crops.

The Wolfsen family -- which includes the Skinner and Mueller families -- says the river has flooded, eroded and seeped into fields east of Los Banos.

A dollar amount for damages is not included in the case, which was filed Thursday in the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington D.C. An amount would be determined as the case proceeds.

A Wolfsen spokesman said the family is not trying to stop the long-awaited restoration, which began in October, more than 20 years after environmentalists sued to return water and salmon to the dried San Joaquin.

"This is a very narrowly focused lawsuit," Wolfsen spokesman Larry Harris said. "We want to preserve property and water rights."...


Will the Governor's New Reservoir plan evaporate more water than would be saved?

9/4/2010--As one veteran observer commented, “It’s never too early to form a JPA for an evaporation pond.” Meaning this may not be a wise place to store water.
The proposed Sites Reservoir is about 10 miles west of Maxwell in Northern California, on the east side of the Sacramento Valley. The Northern California Water Association (NCWA) says that Sites would be filled primarily by pumped diversions from the Sacramento River during peak flows in winter....

A reservoir at Sites was considered, and shelved, in 1970. DWR had looked at projected evaporation on another reservoir in the same location (Paskenta-Newville Reservoir) and reported that given the air temperature and winds off the backside of the coastal hills, Sites Reservoir would lose more in evaporation than it would make available for use elsewhere.

According to DWR Bulletin No. 73-1, evaporation at this location in the decade from 1960-1970 ranged from 73 to 96 inches a year. That’s 6-8 feet of water that would never make it to a crop (or a tap).

And that’s at last century’s temperatures, not the higher temperatures projected for this century.

Some knowledgeable people think this is actually a way to get water from the Eel River (despite Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protections) and make it available for the Central Valley and Westlands Water District.

Coincidentally, Thad Bettner, general manager of GCID (backers of the Sites reservoir), used to be the resource manager for Westlands Water District.

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