Chumash prevail in water rights lawsuit
August 26, 2016
For the third time this year, a lawsuit filed by Save the Valley against the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has failed to succeed to trial. The group recently withdrew a complaint focused at shutting off the tribe’s water supply.
A group of residents and property owners founded Save the Valley in 2000 in an attempt to force the tribe to follow the same rules as other property owners. The tribe recently finished a large casino expansion and is working to build more tribal housing.
Because the tribe enjoys sovereign immunity it is not required to abide by many local regulations. Even so, Save the Valley has filed multiple lawsuits including four since late 2015.
On Nov. 13, 2015, Save the Valley sued the Unites States asking it to deny the existence of the Santa Ynez Reservation. Less than two months later, United States District Judge John Walter dismissed the complaint.
On March 31, Save the Valley again sued the United States over the Tribe’s application to put a 1,400 acre piece of property into a tribal trust for housing and retail construction.
The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians responded with a threat of sanctions against Save the Valley for filing a frivolous lawsuit. Save the Valley then dismissed its complaint, less than three months after filing it.
On May 3, Save the Valley sued the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District and Irrigation District No. 1 attempting to choke off the tribe’s water supply. That case was dismissed on Aug. 10.
“Each of these cases represents a failed opportunity to invest money in the Santa Ynez Valley to make it a better place for valley residents,” said Kenneth Kahn, Tribal Chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “Every dollar wasted on such baseless litigation could have been invested in a park for our children or any number of worthy nonprofit causes.”
To date, the tribe has donated more than $20 million to groups, organization and schools on the Central Coast.