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No, they are not.
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In 2019, a group of agricultural landowners (“Plaintiffs”) with properties that overlie the Oxnard Plain and Pleasant Valley Groundwater Basins (“Basins”), filed a comprehensive groundwater adjudication lawsuit to determine the rights of all persons to extract groundwater from these Basins. The groundwater basins underlie the southern portion of the City of Ventura (primarily around the Ventura Auto Center), all of the City of Oxnard, the City of Port Hueneme, and Naval Base Ventura County, the majority of the City of Camarillo, and surrounding areas in unincorporated Ventura County. The lawsuit seeks a court adjudication of groundwater rights against all persons or entities that either (a) extract, or pump, groundwater from these basins, or (b) own real property overlying this basin.
You received the Plaintiffs’ mailing of their Notice of Commencement of Groundwater Basin Adjudication because you are a property owner overlying one of these Basins. Although Plaintiffs’ lawsuit likely does not list you as a defendant by name, it is Plaintiffs’ intent to serve you with notice of this lawsuit so that your property is bound if a court judgment is entered in the case. The amount of money that you pay for water and your property rights may be affected by this lawsuit. No, this is not a class action lawsuit; however, it involves the interests of thousands of property owners.
Because the City pumps groundwater from the Oxnard Plain Groundwater Basin to supply its Ventura Water customers. This is one of the City’s water supply sources and currently accounts for about 40% of the City’s water supply portfolio. The City will need to vigorously participate in this lawsuit in order to defend its water rights on behalf of its customers.
Yes, the City of Ventura has been forced to retain experienced, specialized outside water counsel and hydrology experts to represent the City in this litigation to effectively defend the City’s water rights on behalf of its customers. Being sued and defending water rights costs money. If Plaintiffs do not drop their lawsuit or a mediated solution is not reached in the short term, this case will cost the City hundreds of thousands and likely several million dollars to defend. These legal and expert costs will be borne by the City’s water fund. The City’s current schedule of water rate increases through Fiscal Year 2025-26 is anticipated to sufficiently fund the City’s defense costs in this case; however, additional rate increases may be necessary depending on how the case proceeds.