The City of Ventura took this step to make sure these important water decisions happen here, in Ventura County, and not in Sacramento. Currently, the City is working with other large water users (water districts/municipalities/ag representatives) toward a local solution and settlement agreement. Those involved share the belief that a court-approved, local, collaborative approach is the right path.
With a six-month extension granted by the Los Angeles Superior Court, the City is optimistic it will make sufficient progress in this time toward a settlement agreement. Please see video and statements below, from other large water users, pertaining to this matter.
1:50:30- 1:52:58 Bruce Kuebler, Ventura River Water District
I’m with the Ventura River Water District. I’m on the board. I’ve been on the board for 6-7 years. I’m part of a team from the Ventura River Water District to try to negotiate a settlement to this suit. I believe what has been outlined is in the best interest of every party here. The state water resources control board will be setting a flow standard for the Ventura River. They did a study – fish and wildlife to see what kind of flows are necessary. That result is going to be coming out probably in the next couple months. That will then go to the state board who will then have to try and balance that flow for the fish with the needs of the people in the valley here, including Ventura and everybody else.
I think the importance of a local solution is that we can come up with a better solution than what the state would impose on us. I think we can work together, like what we’re doing right now. We’ve had a lot of meetings. We had one this morning. We had one last Friday, we had one before that. We are making good progress. And I think if we can keep the fish in good condition and we can continue using water the way we are right now, that’s the best solution and that’s what we’re trying to work for.
I’m dedicated to this process. I’ve done a lot of research. I know a lot about the ground water and surface water and I think this is a good way to go. I’m working on your behalf. I don’t want to see a lawsuit. I don’t want to see people’s water use regulated. We’re doing a great job with water conservation, the district. We’ve cut back 35-40% since 2013, we’ve done our share and Miner’s Oaks is doing the same thing. We’re all in this together. I think this is the best process we have. If it falls apart, boy, you’re going to be looking at a lot of big dollars and a long, long time in court. And I think no one wants that. I don’t want that and I don’t think anyone else wants that.
1:53:00-1:56:38 Brian Brennan, Casitas Water District
I’m Brian Brennan, I’m a member of Casitas. I’m a resident of Ventura. As you know, City of Ventura has a right to Casitas water. Talking baseball, I would just say we are a minority owner of the baseball team. There are three members from the Ojai Valley and two from Ventura. What Bruce said is right on the money. We don’t want to go adjudication. We don’t want to be told how to do it. I’m going to be spending most of my weekend going through the settlement agreement that we have.
So, there is a settlement agreement that we have that we hope is very, very close. But, I’m also working to make sure that our rights as Casitas water rights are standing up for our water users. And I would just say by collaboratively working together, it’s been the only solution. And so, I’ve only been on there a year, but I followed water for years. I was former Mayor of Ventura and council member, and I was sort of the Norton of the Honeymooners. I was a sewer and water guy.
I’ve watched it for a long time. The Ventura River – we’ve been dancing very carefully around it for a number of years. Certainly in ’97 when the Steelhead got listed as endangered population, I knew we were going to have an issue. But a lot of that by the way, the Ventura River was almost channelized and turned into something that looks like the LA River. We’re fortunate to have it the way it is right now, but we have to work collaboratively to be able to come up with a solution that acknowledges the fish and the gentleman who was up here earlier was right on the money. It’s not just the fish. A healthy river is not just good for the habitat, but for residents also. So, that was a huge piece of my involvement early on in the environmental movement. I will say that a lot of it is coming together and trying to find a solution. And, if we go to court and say we’ve done all this together, then it’s put in and that’s technically the judgment. You’re talking about the Santa Paula Basin. That’s the judgment they work off of.
We don’t want to be having to go to court. We’ve figured out and learned — and I’ll be brief — one of the things we’ve learned over the last couple of years is that it’s a lot better to work collaboratively. For a long time in the Watershed from Ventura County a lot of the water districts were suing each other because it was about water rights — we’ve gotten over that. We realize that that money needs to go to solutions, number one, and also to a healthy river. So we’re out there fighting for you.
But the City was the one that was led into the initial lawsuit and then certainly we had to be into part of it also. We’re working really close, the solution is getting really close. We can’t disclose that but when it is a solution, it will be public. There’s a scientist, I want to add. There’s been a resident biologist who’s done an awful lot of work in that river for the fish. People say you don’t see it now, but it’s a very flashy river. It’s been years since I’ve seen Steelhead in there but they’re possibly there now.
1:56:40-1:57:00 Bruce Kuebler, Ventura River Water District
From my own personal view, the bottom line is that do we want to have local control or do we want to have state control imposed on us? I don’t want state control imposed on us. And I think this is the way to prevent that. And that’s what I’m working for.