SAN DIEGO -- Superior Court Judge Laurence Kay has granted several groups permission to participate in a lawsuit as opponents to the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California's assertion that the wheeling rate it set in November 1996 for use of the Colorado River Aqueduct complies with state law.
The Chemehuevi and Quechan Indian tribes, the Inyo-Mono County Farm Bureau, and the Cadiz Land Company have joined the San Diego County Water Authority, the Imperial Irrigation District, and the Center for Public Interest Law in their opposition to MWD's position. The Environmental Defense Fund also sought permission to participate in the lawsuit, but its request was denied.
In addition, the Northern California Water Association has shown its support by filing a friend of the court brief in favor of the Authority's position.
"It is encouraging to receive this kind of support," said Scott Slater, special counsel to the Authority. "These groups share our view that MWD's proposed wheeling rate is grossly inflated and is designed to ensure MWD's water monopoly in Southern California."
In January, MWD filed a validation action seeking judicial ratification of its proposed $262 wheeling rate. Instead, Judge Kay at a hearing in July ordered a trial be held Oct. 9 to explore the case's merits. In an action related to the recent decision, Judge Kay postponed the trial to Nov. 7 in order to give the new participants more time to prepare.
At the July hearing, Judge Kay ruled on motions filed by the Water Authority and the Imperial Irrigation District challenging MWD's validation action. The first motion challenged the adequacy of MWD's public notification process, which consisted only of notifications in newspapers in its service area rather than actual service on all interested parties. Had Judge Kay upheld this motion, MWD would have been forced to refile the suit, which would have allowed other interested parties to join the lawsuit in support of the Water Authority and IID. While Judge Kay denied the motion, he said he would "look favorable" upon motions by interested parties to intervene in the case. This recent ruling ensures their ability to do so.
"These groups have a real interest in this case," said Slater. "We are pleased their views will be heard."
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