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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.

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