News release: The story originally appeared on ridgecrestca.com on Dec 21, 2022. The News-Review is publishing the Updated version of Dec 28, 2022.
RIDGECREST, CA– Judge William Claster of Orange County Superior Court granted twin motions filed by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority to dismiss claims by Searles Valley Minerals, Inc., and Mojave Pistachios LLC that the Authority’s adoption of a replenishment fee to fund implementation of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (“GSP”), as required under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) will result in damages to them in the amount of $250,000,000.
Mojave and Searles have argued that the GSP deprives them of their water. The court disagreed, noting that “Nothing in the GSP determines or alters groundwater rights because the SGMA says the GSP, etc. do not determine or alter groundwater rights.” As James Markman, special counsel for the Authority explained: “This puts to rest a claim that has been made for years that the Authority has been taking away private property rights. The court found that contrary to the assertion of both Searles and Mojave, the Authority did nothing to unlawfully ‘determine or alter water rights.’ We hope that this decision puts that claim to rest once and for all.”
At the hearing, attorneys for both Searles and Mojave complained that this ruling opened the door for the Authority to collect all unpaid replenishment fees from their delinquent clients. Mr. Markman agrees that the fees can now be collected. As he explained: “The board has directed us to seek immediate payment of all unpaid fees from all delinquent parties. We intend to seek the court’s cooperation in that regard in the new year.”
The IWVGA is a joint powers agency comprised of the Counties of Kern, Inyo and San Bernardino, as well as the City of Ridgecrest and the Indian Wells Valley Water District.