Water moratorium lawsuit transferred out of SLO County
April 23, 2014
One of two lawsuits seeking to have the Paso Robles water moratorium ordinance overturned will be decided by a judge in Santa Clara County.
On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Jac Crawford approved the out of county transfer requested by one of the defendants, the city of Paso Robles. The other parties in the suit agreed to have the case heard by Judge Joseph Huber, a justice noted for his experience in groundwater litigation.
In the suit filed by attorney Richard Zimmer on behalf of several property owners within the Paso Robles Basin, the plaintiffs are seeking to “preserve and protect their overlying groundwater rights” through a quiet title action designed to overturn the ordinance.
Zimmer named the county and four municipal water companies that sell groundwater to customers in San Luis Obispo County – Paso Robles, Templeton Community Services District, Atascadero Mutual Water Company, and the San Miguel Community Services District – as defendants in the suit. Each of the defendants extracts water for use on property that does not overlie the Paso Robles aquifer, the lawsuit says.
The plaintiffs argue that California law gives superior water rights to land owners with property above the basin over property owners outside the basin. The Paso Robles water moratorium ordinance restricts usage to properties dependent on a well while giving priority rights to the county and municipal water companies, the suit says.
On Oct. 8, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors extended its urgency ordinance that restricts water use in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. The ordinance prohibits new development in the Paso Robles basin that uses more water than it saves.
In the second lawsuit, the Paso Robles Water Integrity Network, an association of landowners within the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, is seeking to have the ordinance rescinded because the SLO County Board of Supervisors “abused its discretion and failed to proceed in a manner prescribed by law when adopting the ‘urgency’ ordinance,” the lawsuit filed by attorney Sophie Treder says.
According to the lawsuit, the county failed to provide enough evidence to demonstrate a “current or immediate threat to the public health, safety or welfare” and did not proceed as required by state law. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for June 4 in San Luis Obispo.