Two claims in the lawsuit filed against the Castaic Lake Water Agency by the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment were dismissed by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Oct. 31.
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Judge Luis Lavin sustained the CLWA’s motion to dismiss SCOPE’s claims that the agency did not comply with CEQA and illegally employed eminent domain when they acquired the Valencia Water Company from the Newhall Land and Farming Company.
The judge did not give SCOPE leave to amend the decision, according to Dan Masnada, CLWA general manager.
“(He) ruled completely in our favor,” Masnada said.
He said that the CLWA had been confident the judge would rule in their favor on these two issues, because of their previous experience and good advice from legal counsel.
“We’re used to complying with CEQA,” Masnada said. “We know what it takes to comply with CEQA.”
This ruling is not the end of the lawsuit, though.
SCOPE is still challenging the contract itself, between Newhall Land and the CLWA.
They claim that the CLWA will use VWC “water to serve (the Newhall Ranch development) to the detriment of the existing service area,” Masnada said, adding that it’s “simply not true.”
What SCOPE President Lynne Plambeck identified as the most important part of the suit was the invalidation or contract reversal proceeding, which has not yet been decided.
It would basically require the CLWA to return the Valencia Water Company to Newhall Land for a refund.
The claim questions whether the CLWA’s ownership of the Valencia Water Company is legal, especially if they decide to operate the company directly and combine it with the Santa Clarita Water Division, rather than just owning VWC stock.
The CLWA purchased the Santa Clarita Water Division in the late 1990s and was legally given permission to retail water within SCWD boundaries in 2000.
“They cannot legally consolidate,” Plambeck said, “because there’s law that they cannot operate a ground water agency outside the boundaries of Santa Clarita Water (Division).”
Although the CLWA has not attempted to consolidate the two companies, “it’s clear all along that they fully intended to merge,” Plambeck said.
She said that the CLWA was trying to develop a water monopoly in the Santa Clarita Valley that would end up being more expensive for ratepayers and foster less public disclosure.
Though Plambeck believes that the law is on their side, she was not very optimistic about the outcome of the suit, because SCOPE could not afford to hire as many lawyers as the CLWA.
“The odds are stacked against us…” she said. “That shouldn’t stop us from trying to stop something that’s illegal.”
Masnada did express the CLWA’s intention to take the Valencia Water Company public and combine it with the Santa Clarita Water Division. But, he said that they only intend to take action in full compliance with the law, and that until a decision is made it’s a moot point.
“It shouldn’t be part of this litigation, because they’re trying to address an issue that hasn’t happened,” Masnada said.
The next hearing for the lawsuit is scheduled in January 2014.
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Source: Santa Clarita News