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Goleta Water District Seeks Access to Delivery Records in Civil Suit Against Slippery Rock Ranch

A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge has given the Goleta Water District permission to subpoena business records for a local water trucking company in the district’s civil fight against the owners of Slippery Rock Ranch.

In a tentative ruling in March, Judge James Herman allowed the district to get water delivery information from A-1 Water, saying some records could be relevant to the delivery of ranch water.

The Goleta Water District filed the civil lawsuit in February 2015 against Slippery Rock Ranch, a private ranch in the Goleta foothills on North La Patera Lane.

The land overlays fractured bedrock with water supplies that are allegedly within the watershed of the Goleta groundwater basin, according to the civil court documents.

The Goleta groundwater basin is about 29,000 acres and adjudicated from a 1989 court decision known as the Wright judgment, giving the district the exclusive right to extract and store water in the basin.

The water district believes the ranch owners want to export and sell the water outside the area, and is asking the court to order Slippery Rock Ranch not to export or divert water.

The case is still in the discovery phase, including witness depositions, and the A-1 Water subpoenas are an effort to get information about purchased water deliveries to Montecito, according to Mary McMaster, an attorney for the water district, who added that Herman's tentative ruling has not been finalized.

Slippery Rock Ranch filed a cross-complaint in January, saying the property is “not physically within the borders of the Goleta groundwater basin as delineated in the Wright judgment.”

The cross-complaint asks for a court declaration that the ranch has rights to the groundwater and to export it in a way that won’t affect the Goleta Water District basin or its ability to get water from the basin.

The ranch owners want to export surplus water from the property but can’t because of the district’s claims, according to the cross-complaint.

If the Goleta Water District showed exporting water would adversely affect the basin, or its ability to get water from it, the ranch could find a “physical solution,” such as delivering water to the district or recharging the groundwater basin, the court documents suggest.

A trial confirmation hearing is set for August. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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