Fasten your seat belt, California

Posted on | January 14, 2010 | 7 Comments

The reported voiding of the Quantification Settlement Agreement today by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Roland Candee has put a concentrated bounce into what Southern Californian water managers have long fashioned as their “hard landing” after they were forced in 2003 by six less well-off states sharing the Colorado River to stop hogging as much as 962,000 acre feet of water above their legal allotment of 4.4 million.

In spite of unfettered urban development across the Colorado River service area in the lead-up to the 2003 cap, Southern California cities managed to reduce their reliance on the river in part by legalizing trades of water from the wildly well endowed agricultural rights holders of the Imperial Irrigation District and neighbors, who had between them 3.850 million acre feet of water. However, evidently not everyone in the Mojave farming community approved of the QSA. Imperial, in a bid to reaffirm its rights under the QSA, launched the law suit that looks like it has ended up voiding the very deal that it sought to protect.

While Imperial may be firing its lawyers right about now, the most sickening impact of the bounce may be felt with Southern Californian urban water suppliers, who fondly imagined that this particular “hard landing” was behind them.

Dramamine anyone? For the court records of the case, click here. For the January 13, 2010 decision, here. More to follow in ‘The week that was’ this Sunday.

This post has been updated. The decision has been uploaded.

1/15/2010: For a run-down of press reactions, go to Aquafornia. Those interested in the Salton Sea aspects of the decision, click here for an edited segment of Judge Candees decision.

Correction: the first version of this post quoted the Associated Press’s identification of the judge as Ronald Candee. Court documents show that his correct name is Roland L. Candee. Chance of Rain apologizes for the error.


7 Responses to “Fasten your seat belt, California”

  1. Jessica Hall
    January 14th, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

    Wow! So does this mean that restoration for Salton Sea would have to be done through other means? And does it also reallocate all that water back into the Colorado, does it mandate that the water stay only for agricultural use, or put it up for grabs by other users, or any chance some of it can stay in the Colorado? Not sure I follow the nuances of the decision.

  2. Ilsa Setziol
    January 14th, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

    Wow! The mind reels. Wondering about all those implications, too.

  3. EmilyGreen
    January 14th, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

    After 15 minutes since pressing the link, I am still downloading the decision — a sign that makes me wearier than the Salton Sea aspect of this decision, which I deliberately omitted from the post because of its mind-boggling complexity and in the desire to put up a quick flag to do with the potential of the case to impact the So Cal urban water supply. I have added links to the court records in the hope that those who are interested and who have time may penetrate this.

  4. John Bass
    January 15th, 2010 @ 1:23 am

    More shifting, pumps turned on and off in places that thought the routine was established. An instant PhD and senior water rights to the first person able to explain in layperson’s terms the implications of Judge Candee’s decision — beyond the fact that some IID landowners realized that with the QSA they were giving away a fortune and that they had the juice to litigate another day, that is.

  5. On the Public Record
    January 15th, 2010 @ 1:59 am

    Does anyone know whether Roland Candee is related to Hal Candee? I’ve been wondering.

  6. John Fleck
    January 15th, 2010 @ 8:30 am

    Jessica –

    I’m not an expert, and have only been watching this affair from two states to the east (wave from New Mexico), but my understanding/expectation is that the questions you’re asking (and that will earn John his PhD) are unanswerable at this point. Appeals will first have to be exhausted by the parties in this case, followed by a new approach at a settlement and/or fresh litigation. The USBR won’t suddenly start giving California extra water again, which means it’s up to Californians to follow one of those two paths to sorting out who gets what.

  7. EmilyGreen
    January 15th, 2010 @ 9:51 am

    I do not know but it would be an interesting Thanksgiving dinner if the NRDC counsel and Judge undoing the Salton Sea restoration deal were, say, brothers.

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