United Water Conservation District may charge urban water users higher groundwater pumping fees than agricultural users, the Second District Court of Appeal has ruled. The court concluded that the fees are not property-based and therefore not subject to Proposition 13. In addition, the court concluded that the pumping fees fall under one of Proposition 26's exceptions, saying that the pump fees represent "payor-specific benefits" not subject to Prop. 26's requirements.
The City of Ventura sued United over the fact that the district charges the city fees that are three to five times that of agricultural users, as permitted in the state Water Code. United manages groundwater in a large area in western Ventura County. Historically, United relied on property tax revenue water delivery charges. But after the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, United began charging customers for pumping the groundwater. Pump charges are governed by Water Code Section 75522, which permits United to charge different rates for agricultural and non-agricultural users and also permits United to separate its service area into different zones.
At about 10:30 this morning, I stepped out of my office a block from Main St. in Ventura to get a cup of coffee. Almost immediately, I noticed something different.
The parking lot on Oak Street, usually two-thirds empty in the morning, was mostly full. And the on-street parking spaces along Oak and Main Street, which are mostly occupied on a typical morning at this time, were mostly vacant.
A state appellate court has sided with a city attorney who declined to prepare ballot titles and summaries for proposed ballot initiatives because they were unconstitutional. The court rejected the initiative backer's arguments that the Ojai city attorney acted too late, that judicial review at the "pre-petition" stage was inappropriate, and that a lawsuit filed by the city attorney was a SLAPP.
In a decision with enormous potential ramifications for environmental regulation, a federal appellate court has ruled that a Bureau of Reclamation mandate requiring a Ventura County water district ensure adequate river flow for an endangered fish species was a physical appropriation of the water. The court ruled that the Casitas Municipal Water District's claims should be considered under the physical takings doctrine, not under the much narrower regulatory takings standard.
Wetlands used to cover a huge swath of Southern California's coast, serving as a sanctuary for wildlife and plants. But today one is hard pressed to find many wetlands left in this urbanized section of the state, where homes, marinas and ports long ago replaced native habitat. While wide, sandy beaches and rocky tide pools are part of the Southern California landscape, quieter wetlands with estuaries, marshes and sand dunes are harder to find.