Client Successes Feb 05, 2018

Water Law Case Overturned for City

BB&K Partners Gene Tanaka and Shawn Hagerty Win in California Appellate Court

Water Law Case Overturned for City

Best Best & Krieger LLP partners Gene Tanaka and Shawn Hagerty successfully argued for the reversal of an unfavorable court decision in a water law case for the City of Ventura. For almost 150 years, Ventura has taken water from the Ventura River to serve its residents. As in much of California, growth has meant other public agencies and private parties also use the Ventura River — reducing its flows. Those water needs conflict with the needs of the endangered steelhead trout.
California law wisely requires that all water be used “reasonably” and prohibits any “unreasonable” use. Using the rule of reasonableness, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper sued the City claiming that its use of water from the River is unreasonable because it harms the trout. The City filed a cross-complaint against other water users on the River arguing that its use must be compared with other uses to determine whether its use is reasonable. Channelkeeper persuaded the trial court to dismiss the cross-complaint on the grounds that the rule of reasonableness is an objective standard that can be determined without reference to other uses.
Surprisingly, there are few cases that have looked directly at this issue. Now, in an opinion published Jan. 30, the First District Court of Appeal addressed that issue and held that the reasonableness of the City’s use must be compared with other uses.
The case is Santa Barbara Channelkeeper v. City of San Buenaventura, A146573

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