Frequently Asked Questions

Overview

In 2014, the City and State were sued by Santa Barbara Channelkeeper. In 2015, the City cross-complained, adding large water users (consumptive users group) to the lawsuit in a strategic move to work toward a collaborative local solution in maintaining the watershed and river. This action enables a locally developed solution, rather than the State solely determining water usage, and allows the City to maintain control of our precious local resources.

In 2019, the City and Channelkeeper reached an interim settlement that put into motion a series of actionable items to better support the infrastructure of the watershed and the river. Now, the City is in settlement discussions with the large water users that had been added to the cross-complaint. In order for the court to approve any settlement and make it binding to all stakeholders, the City was required to send out Notices and Summons to all those who may be impacted.

By collaborating with all stakeholders, the City desires to develop a holistic, locally driven solution to protect the watershed that takes into consideration all water users’ needs and safeguards this supply for users and the environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did I receive a Notice and what does it mean?

You received a Notice because you have been identified as owning real property overlying one of the watershed’s four groundwater basins. You are not a party in this lawsuit, and no further action is required on your part.

By law, the court requires that all affected interests have the chance to participate in the litigation process that, as an owner of property in the Ventura River Watershed, may have an impact on any rights you have to pump groundwater or divert surface water.

If I received a Notice, what do I need to do next?

No further action is required unless you choose to file an answer and become a party to the lawsuit. If you choose to claim rights to pump or store groundwater within one of the groundwater basins, you may become a party to this lawsuit by filing an answer on or before the deadline specified in this notice.

The Court granted the City’s request to extend the time to respond to City’s Third Amended Cross-Complaint. The new deadline to file and serve a response is SEPTEMBER 08, 2020. The Court’s orders and the City’s Notice of Ruling are available at the following links: Order re Filing of Proofs, Order re Deadline to Respond, Notice of Ruling.

Why have I received a Summons and what does it mean?

You received a Summons because you have been identified as an owner of real property abutting the Ventura River or its tributaries. Your property’s proximity to the Ventura River or its tributaries may give you certain rights to take water from these resources. You are a party to this lawsuit and the City has named you as a cross-defendant, but it is important to note that no one who received a Summons will be subject to a monetary judgment.

If I received a Summons, what do I need to do next?

Owners who received a Summons and claim rights to divert, pump or store surface water or groundwater, either now or in the future, may protect their rights by filing an answer or other pleading within 60 days of receiving the Summons.

The Court granted the City’s request to extend the time to respond to City’s Third Amended Cross-Complaint. The new deadline to file and serve a response is SEPTEMBER 08, 2020. The Court’s orders and the City’s Notice of Ruling are available at the following links: Order re Filing of Proofs, Order re Deadline to Respond, Notice of Ruling.

Is the City suing me?

No. If you received a Notice, you are not being sued by the City, nor are you a party to the lawsuit, unless you choose to file a response.

If you received a Summons, you are party to the lawsuit, as the court determined that the City must include all property owners whose property abuts the Ventura River or its tributaries — not just the large water users (consumptive users group) the City named in its cross-complaint.

You will not be subject to a monetary judgment.

I don’t live in the City of Ventura. Why did I receive a Notice or Summons?

If you do not live in the City of Ventura but received a Notice or Summons, it’s because the court identified you as an affected interest based on your proximity to the Ventura River. Please refer to questions No. 1 and No. 3 for more information.

Will I still receive water service from my provider?

Yes. If you currently receive water service from a service provider, such as Ventura Water (City of Ventura), this lawsuit does not directly impact your water service. You will continue to receive water service from your service provider.

Did the City choose to sue me?

In response to the 2014 Channelkeeper lawsuit filed against the City and State, the City chose to file a cross-complaint that added large water users as co-defendants, in order to find a locally driven, collaborative solution to protect the Ventura River resource.

As the City nears a collaborative settlement with other large water users, the court has required that all affected interests be notified. If you received a Notice you are not being sued. If you received a Summons, the court has determined that your ownership of property that abuts the River or its tributaries makes you a party to this lawsuit.

What if I choose not to file a response?

If you do not file an answer or other pleading, you will not be entitled to participate in the case, and the outcome could impact your right to divert, pump or store surface water or groundwater, either now or in the future.

Regardless of whether you choose to file a response or not, the City will be actively working on a settlement derived from a collaborative solution that protects the River and its users.

What happens if I file a response or other pleading?

If you decide to participate, the court will decide the next steps, which may limit the need for you to be involved in this case. However, we do not yet know what the court will decide. You will be updated as part of the court process as soon as more information is available.

Should I hire an attorney?

Each individual must make this decision. You do not need to hire an attorney to file an answer. You also do not need to hire an attorney to participate in the lawsuit, but the City cannot provide legal advice on any matters pertaining to this lawsuit.

Why did the City file a cross-complaint?

Taking notice of the challenges facing the watershed, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper took initial legal action against the City of Ventura in 2014 to limit the City’s use of the Ventura River. The City recognized and continues to recognize Channelkeeper’s concerns and agrees action must be taken to protect the region’s local water resources and all who depend on them.

However, this cannot be accomplished by only one local water user, as the City only accounts for a portion of the total water used by hundreds of users in the watershed. As a result, the City made the difficult decision to file a cross-complaint to bring all water users to the table and develop a clear, effective framework for the future.

What is the current status of the settlement efforts?

The City is currently in settlement discussions with the large water users named in the cross-complaint to identify a physical solution that would benefit all parties and avoid adjudication of water rights.

The Court rescheduled the Case Management Conferences previously set for May 8 and June 1 to June 24 at 2:30 p.m., Los Angeles County Superior Court, Complex Civil Litigation Division, Department No. 010, 312 North Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

The Court granted the City’s request to extend the time to respond to City’s Third Amended Cross-Complaint. The new deadline to file and serve a response is SEPTEMBER 08, 2020.

The Court’s orders and the City’s Notice of Ruling are available at the following links: Order re Filing of Proofs, Order re Deadline to Respond, Notice of Ruling.

What outcome is the City hoping for in the settlement process?

The City is committed to resolving this litigation through a negotiated settlement known as a “physical solution” and has already been in discussion with many of the region’s largest agricultural and municipal water users, who are all in agreement that we need a new approach to managing the Ventura River Watershed for the future.

The City’s goal is to work collaboratively with all local water interests to develop a locally driven solution – one that protects the Watershed and preserves its water supply through:
• Establishing a framework that determines the appropriate use of groundwater and surface water for users’ needs and the environment;
• Making the most of the watershed’s limited resources through watershed-level planning;
• Maintaining the steelhead fishery in good condition; and,
• Sharing the responsibility of protecting this finite water supply among all users.

The City’s desired outcome will not have any “winners” or “losers,” but rather, a commitment by everyone to safeguard this water resource for future generations.

What happens if the City and other water users do not settle?

The Ventura River is the City’s oldest and cheapest source for water, at approximately 1/5 of the cost as other water supplies. If a settlement is not reached, it is possible that the City will lose local control of the Ventura River and that water rates will increase.

Additionally, a settlement would provide a collaboratively developed physical solution to help put a framework in place to protect the watershed, which will benefit all water users while protecting this resource.

Who are the large water users that were named in the cross-complaint?

Casitas Municipal Water District, Ventura River Water District, Meiners Oaks Water District, Taylor Ranch, Rancho Matilija Mutual Water Company, and other farms, ranches and individual well owners.

Are these legal proceedings using taxpayer dollars? If so, how much?

Since the lawsuit was brought against the City in 2014, the City has spent, to date, approximately $4 million on the case. About half of the costs are for legal fees and related costs, and the other half are for the scientific studies and river analyses related to this issue. The funds for this lawsuit are from the City’s Water Enterprise Fund, paid for by the City’s Ventura Water customers.

The Ventura River is the City’s oldest and cheapest source of water and the City believes this expenditure is an investment in developing a collaborative solution that enables the City to maintain local control of this resource benefits all water users who receive water from the Ventura River or its tributaries.

Additionally, the City reached an interim settlement with Santa Barbara Channelkeeper in 2019 in which the City covered Channelkeeper’s legal fees in the amount of $850,000.

What is the City doing to conserve their use of water?

Ventura is a long-standing environmental steward with a history of effective water management.

The City has been in a Stage 3 Water Shortage Event with a 20% mandatory reduction in water usage since 2014 (20% Mandatory cutback).

City customers have conserved 26% in 2019 when compared to water demands from 2013 (pre-drought years) set by the State. The City is exceeding the Casitas Stage 3 requirements of conservation – leaving water in the lake by utilizing other water resources.

The City also has a robust outreach program with rebates, incentives – indoor and outdoor; messaging efforts – website, bill inserts, door hangers, social media, gardening classes, water efficiency surveys, 25 staffed outreach events, and K-12 water education outreach.

The City has a water neutrality policy developed and implemented in 2016 to address new developments – any new development must offset its projected water demand so the City remains water neutral.

The City has been proactively diversifying its water portfolio and it is actively moving forward to secure future water supply – the VenturaWaterPure Project and the State Water Interconnection Project.

Finally, as part of the interim settlement agreement, the City is conducting a pilot program to reduce its use from the River when flows reach below certain levels, and it also moving forward to address two potential fish passage barriers at Foster Park.

How do I file an answer or other pleading in this case?

Filing an answer or other pleading in this case must be done in one of three ways at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, located at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012, http://www.lacourt.org/courthouse/info/address/la

1. Deliver in person to: Stanley Mosk Courthouse, Complex Civil Filing Window, First Floor, Room 102, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for Court Holidays;

2. Mail to: Stanley Mosk Courthouse, 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; or

3. Fax filing: Stanley Mosk Courthouse, General Jurisdiction-Complex (Room 102), Facsimile Telephone Number: (442) 247-3769

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, special needs can be met by calling 805-667-6500 or through the California Relay Service.

All service shall be made by electronic service through the provider File & ServeXpress. To register, visit their website, https://os.fileandservexpress.com/web/ui/welcomepage.aspx, or call 1-888-529-7587.

Important case information: 19STCP01176, Los Angeles County Superior Court, Complex Civil Litigation Division, Department No. 010, Judge William F. Highberger presiding, located at 312 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, California 90012 Please note that you will need to pay an appearance fee of $435 when you file your answer.

When is the next court hearing in this case?

The Court rescheduled the Case Management Conferences previously set for May 8 and June 1 to June 24 at 2:30 p.m., Los Angeles County Superior Court, Complex Civil Litigation Division, Department No. 010, 312 North Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Additionally, due to COVID-19 related Court closures, all appearances should be telephonic absent an articulable special need to appear in person. For information on making a telephonic appearance, please visit https://courtcall.com/?c=CCHOME, or call (888) 882-6878.

The Court granted the City of San Buenaventura’s (“City”) request to extend the time to respond to City’s Third Amended Cross-Complaint. The new deadline to file and serve a response is SEPTEMBER 08, 2020.

The Court’s orders and the City’s Notice of Ruling are available at the following links: Order re Filing of Proofs, Order re Deadline to Respond, Notice of Ruling.