Judge sides with Nipomo in South County water dispute
March 14, 2016
A Santa Clara judge has tentatively rejected a legal bid by three South County cities to halt new development and new groundwater pumping on the Nipomo Mesa. [Tribune]
As part of a longstanding battle over the use of the Santa Maria groundwater basin, the cities of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Pismo Beach filed suit against Nipomo Mesa water providers last year. The South County cities alleged Nipomo Mesa water providers have over pumped the basin, which is preventing underground recharge from reaching the northern part of the basin and is raising the risk of saltwater intrusion in wells.
Attorneys for the three South County cities filed the lawsuit in Santa Clara Superior Court. They requested a court order prohibiting new wells, new development and new water entitlement on the Nipomo Mesa until the overpumping stops and more water is imported to the area.
In 2008, a judge ordered Nipomo to import 2,500 acre feet of water. The Nipomo CSD then embarked on a project to build a water pipeline from Santa Maria to the Mesa.
The CSD recently completed the first phase of the project, but it was only projected to bring in 650 acre-feet of water in the first year. The pipeline is not expected to deliver 2,500 acre-feet of water annually until around 2025.
On Feb. 26, Santa Clara Judge Peter Kirwan, known as an expert in water law, issued a tentative ruling that stated the Nipomo Mesa water providers did not appear to be complying with the 2008 judgment. However, the court does not have the power to stop all new development, Kirwan ruled.
If the court were to put a halt to new development, it would likely trigger lawsuits from developers whose projects have already been approved, Kirwan stated.
Both sides of the South County groundwater dispute must now meet and discuss solutions. They are then scheduled to appear in court on May 12.