Superior Court Judge Gloria Trask
Gives Tentative Adjudication Decision
On Continued Water Rampdown

      The drought in the eastern San Bernardino county, along the Colorado River, is categorized as Abnormally Dry.  This area traditionally receives some wet monsoon activity.  Moving westward, away from those occasional rains, the drought turns to Moderate, then Severe Drought; and finally, western San Bernardino county's Extreme Drought.


Posted: June 1, 2015


      On May 29, 2015, the annual gathering of attorneys and other parties interested in the Baja Subarea water adjudication, gathered at a Riverside County superior courtroom before Judge Gloria Connor Trask.  Having previously received the recommendations of the Watermaster, and argument briefs from the parties in interest, the judge presented her Tentative Ruling, as is normal, prior to hearing oral arguments.  Judge Trask is expected to present her rampdown decision later in June.

      The Newberry Springs Recreational Lake Owners Association had a large contingent of lake owners attending the hearing.  Among the few minimal producers who attended were Wayne and Linda Snively.  The Blotter later received a forwarded e-mail written by Linda Snively to a few of her friends describing her impression of the hearing.

      The Blotter has acquired permission from the Snively's to publish the e-mail which comprises the informational subject of this blog.  Both Linda and Wayne Snively had hoped to present a short oral presentation at the hearing; however, as minimal producers (those pumping under 10 acre feet per year) they are not a legal part of the Adjudication (they are only IMPACTED); therefore the Snivelys were not permitted to speak.  The Blotter has acquired a copy of their proposed presentations to the court and have attached them below.


Linda Snively's E-mail

      Wayne and I were probably the only Minimum Producers.  People in attendance were majority of Lake People. Approximately 70 People Total.  Holly (USDA), Lance (MWA), Kirby (MWA), Valerie (MWA Watermasters), Robert Wagner (MWA engineer Watermasters Consultant), Richard Hall (MWA Director), Jim Ventura (MWA Director), Bill Brunick (MWA Attorney). Johnsons, DeJongs, Harders, Ed Hackbarth,

      As guessed no one was allowed to give any comments.  The audio in the room was atrocious, we sat in the front row, and had to lean forward to gleen what any of the attorneys were saying.  Judge Trask was perfectly clear.

      There were five attorneys, who stood the whole time.
      Bill Brunick (MWA Attorney)
      Mitisubshi Cement Plant Attorney
      Lake Hired Attorney (who referred to the AG Attorney all throughout)
      AG Pumpers Attorney (Named Harders, DeJong, and a couple of more)
      US Fish and Wildlife Attorney Ms Levine (she forgot business cards, but we talked to her and told her what a fantastic job she did.

      To start off the hearing Judge Trask mentioned her Preliminary Ruling.  None of the attorneys had seen it, (published the day before a hearing).  The hearing was recessed while the clerk got a copy for all of the attorneys and when they were through reading, it was resumed.  Bill Brunick called Kirby Brill over to read an item on either page two or three.  We had no clue as to the Prelim Ruling.

      Judge Track started out with strongly asking the attorneys what would be the ramifications if 2.5% was the decision, as opposed to 5%.  (Note: where in the heck did 2.5% come up, since the WaterMaster recommendation was 5%, and Bill Brunick was told by Judge Trask last year "Do not come to me with anything less than 5% next year" (quoted by Brunick in a Water Master Meeting).

      Judge Trask wanted to know who and why was the Lake Attorney there?  (Wouldn't she have that information ahead of time?  Although there were only four chairs for the attorneys to sit in, which went unused).  The Lake attorney wanted the lakes to be separated, but Judge Trask said she could not do that because it might open it up for more law suits.  The Lake attorney was not a strong, dynamic person.  He portrayed the Lake people as elderly, fixed income people with limited resources.  That was not the profile of the people in the audience.  Both he and the AG attorney wanted 2.5%.

      Fish and Wildlife attorney was very cool, collected, highly informed and pointed the history of how they had five years, and pumping was now more than 2010.  She mentioned two feet per year downdraft.  She told us she had listened to the WaterMaster Meeting Audio of March, 2015, and she instantly recognized Wayne.

      Judge Trask said several times to the AG attorney that this situation is not new, and it has been before the court yearly.

      The AG attorney said if 5% rampdown is the decision the farmers will immediately go out of business.  He said they need more time to come up with alternatives, which they are working on right now.  He several times went back to talk to Joe Harter, who obviously runs it all.  The attorney kept mentioning the farmers had a problem planning any future because of lack of ability to pump, and an inability to get bank financing.  The AG Attorney also mentioned that they did not agree with the findings of MWA WaterMaster Engineer, Robert Wagner, as to the accuracy of the overpumping amounts.  They did not have any counter study by any authority, it was just negative, idle statement, with no legal background.

      Mitishibi Attorney asked for 5%, MWA asked for 5%, US Fish and Wildlife asked for 5%.  Bill Brunick did mention 1,300 domestic wells were in jeopardy of having to re-drill, and that MWA was working to help them.  He also mentioned Minimum Producers.

      One major significant item was that the attorneys pointed out that the AG pumpers used carry over water first, then use their yearly allotment, and then carry over unused yearly allotment for next years water.  We were not aware how they manipulate their usage.

      It had one 15 minute break, and the whole hearing was over by 10:30 A.M.

      We did not feel good about it, and might the Minimum Producers have to have an attorney present to more strongly represent us.  Or might any legal representation then include us farther in this event ? Just something to consider.

      Interesting, as we follow and participate through this journey, we feel that we could have been at the attorney's table with stronger views to what the reality is.

      Will attempt to find the Preliminary Ruling, as it appears to be another piece of the puzzle.

      Wayne is in town, so this is my interpretation.


Wayne Snively's proposed oral presentation to the court.


Linda Snively's proposed oral presentation to the court.

Related blogs on groundwater:
U.S. farmers making hay with alfalfa exports to China -  L.A. Times  6/8/14
Readers React -  L.A. Times  6/14/14
Is Newberry Springs being slowly poisoned like Hinkley? -  7/14/14
Is Newberry Springs killing horses? -  8/3/14
Dirty secret of some Newberry Springs farmers. -  8/17/14
Evidence grows for possibility of tainted horse feed. -  8/20/14
Farmers continuing import of toxic sewer sludge. -  9/11/14
Planning Sustainable Water - Community Turning Against Farmers -  9/19/14
Angry Residents Call For Rampdowns And Pumping Tax -  9/26/14
Farmers are horrified at proposed draconic rampdowns -  10/4/14
Emergency action necessary to save water supply. -  10/11/14
Water activist meets with citizens on water law. -  10/16/14
Pivot farming is seriously depleting local water. -  11/11/14
Baja Areawide Sustainability Plan supports status-quo. -  12/9/14
Newberry Springs lakes are being choked. -  12/29/14
Special Report: Silver Valley's water plan. -  1/1/15
Newberry Springs residents flood water meeting. -  1/7/15
Robert Kasner's views on farmers' water rights. -  1/16/15
Newberry Springs has large Watermaster turnout. -  1/29/15
Baja water plan offers delusions for everyone. -  3/20/15
Thirsty crops should require state regulations. -  L.A. Times  3/22/15
Baja water basin moratorium ordinance planned. -  4/11/15
Watermaster plays politics against minimal producers. -  4/12/15
Safety of urban sewage sludge being investigated. -  4/13/15
Proposed county ordinance on hold. -  4/18/15

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