Wednesday, February 21 , 2018, 9:04 pm | Fair 48º


Local News

Trial Date Nears for Goleta Water District Civil Case Against Slippery Rock Ranch

Trial could start in a few weeks for the civil case — centered on the issue of groundwater rights — between the Goleta Water District and Slippery Rock Ranch.

After a quick court appearance by both sides on Wednesday, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge James Herman set a trial confirmation date of Sept. 14.

It’s a technical, paperwork-heavy case that will include dozens of witnesses, including several technical experts, and more than 1,000 exhibits, according to attorneys.

The Goleta Water District filed the civil lawsuit in February 2015 against the owners of the ranch, which is in the foothills on North La Patera Lane.

The property overlays fractured bedrock with water supplies that the district claims are within the watershed of the Goleta groundwater basin, according to court documents.

The district’s basin is adjudicated from a 1989 court decision known as the Wright judgment, which gave the district the right to extract and store water in the basin.

The lawsuit complaint claims Slippery Rock Ranch wants to export and sell the groundwater outside the area, and asks the court to issue an injunction to prevent that.

Attorneys for the ranch have since filed a cross-complaint 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.

Herman will preside over the civil trial, which is expected to start right after the Sept. 14 trial-confirmation date.

District staff, including General Manager John McInnes, and technical experts are among those on the witness list, according to a trial brief filed by the district’s attorneys Wednesday morning.

The Goleta Water District was mandated to maintain hydrologic balance in the groundwater basin as part of the Wright judgment, and “the district satisfies that obligation, at least in part, by recharging the basin with the water that flows into the basin from bedrock foundations underlying the defendant’s property,” attorneys wrote in the trial brief.

The civil case comes at a time when the district has been increasing its own groundwater well production to deal with diminishing surface water supplies during the drought, including repairs to wells not used since the early 1990s and building new wells.

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.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >