By Patricia Farris
News Review Publisher
At the last Indian Wells Valley Water District (IWVWD) Board Meeting on Monday, June 13, Jim Worth, Legal Counsel for the Water District, reported on the Comprehensive Adjudication. This law suit was filed by the Indian Wells Valley Water District on June 16, 2021. Indian Wells Valley Water District v. All Persons Who Claim a Right to Extract Groundwater in the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Basin. Worth related that “With respect to the Adjudication, the cases that have been found related to the segment Adjudication have all been assigned to Judge William Claster.
This was considered a good thing. As you recall, for a couple of months we were having hearings that were being continued because the judge that was assigned was not available. So, all the attorneys believe that Judge Claster being assigned is a good thing.
Our first hearing in front of the Judge was the Case Management Conference on May 20. This was a conference in front of the Judge where the parties were required to provide the Judge with an update on the status of the matter so the Judge could make rulings that he thinks are necessary.
“A highlight was that the Judge granted the District’s further request that the $1,000 initial filing fee waiver would be continued through July 31, 2022.
This being the Judge’s first time in front of all attorneys involved, he spent a lot of time trying to figure out how the cases filed by Mojave Pistachios and Searles Valley Minerals against the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (IWVGA) challenging the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) and the implementation actions might be related. He referred to the Adjudications as the limited physical solution, and then the Comprehensive Adjudication filed by the District as well as the Searles Valley Minerals (SVM) as a cross complaint. He does understand that they are different than the cases filed by and against the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (GA).
“The Judge spent a good deal of time trying to figure out how the two cases filed by Mojave Pistachios and SVM against the GA challenging the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) and implementation actions might be related to the cases that have been filed by the GA against Mojave Pistachio, SVM and Inyokern.
The Judge sees that they are definitely related. He thinks there are some redundancies with both of the actions. They all talk about the fees and the Judge didn’t do anything during the Case Management Conference but he’s going to continue to think and work on whether or not those cases need to be consolidated.
“The expectation is that the Judge will set hearings for the multiple cases to keep continuity in that regard” Worth said.
Worth also reported that the Department of Water Resources (DWR)facilitation was discussed. He said, “There were a lot of positive thoughts by the attorneys for not only the Water District and SVM but also the others. The attorneys indicated that the DWR facilitation was a positive step in the right direction and that one possible outcome is that the DWR facilitation could help in the resolution of the lawsuits. The judge wants to see the facilitation go forward.”
He announced that the next Case Management Conference has been set for December 2 at 1:30pm at which time the parties will gather and let us know what is going on with facilitation.
The discussion closed with the announcement that the next step in the process with facilitation is for DWR to conduct stakeholder assessments throughout the valley.