County put water supply at risk during flood, complaint alleges

At the time that flash flooding was predicted in January for areas in Ventura County affected by the Thomas Fire, the Ventura County Planning Division had required that plans be in place to order a shut-down for the Santa Paula Canyon oilfield to prevent flood waters from polluting area aquifers; but the shut-down orders never came, allege three environmental advocacy groups who have filed a formal complaint against the division for failing to follow its own guidelines.

Los Padres ForestWatch, Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas, and Center for Biological Diversity filed the complaint, alleging that in 2015, when the Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved permits allowing operations at Santa Paula Canyon, it required the operator of the field to temporarily shutdown its 200-foot oil pipeline when flood warnings were issued for the Santa Paula Creek area.

The original operator in 2015 was California Resources Corporation, and now the canyon is operated by Carbon California.

“Ventura County is responsible for protecting Santa Paula Creek and communities downstream from these oilfields,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The county needs to enforce its own safety requirements. Officials dropped the ball after the Thomas Fire by failing to initiate safety measures to protect people and wildlife in harm’s way.”

The complaint alleges that Ventura County officials put public health and environmental safety at risk by failing to enforce the permit requirements.

Groundwater Agency rejects Sespe Aquifer exemption near Fillmore

The Fillmore/Piru Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board of Directors has voted unanimously to oppose the Sespe Aquifer Exemption proposal and will draft a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board detailing its opposition.

Board Director Glen Pace recused himself from the vote as he represents the Piru Basin Pumpers Association, but was also in support of opposing the exemption.

The exemption would allow continued injections of oilfield wastewater into the aquifer, which sits half a mile from the city of Fillmore’s sole water source. On Jan. 29, the agency board hosted an informational presentation on the Sepse Aquifer Exemption proposal being considered by the State of California’s Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources.

Oilfield operator Seneca Resources’ proposal would have exempted the company from federal regulations regarding the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Around 30 Fillmore residents were in attendance for the Tuesday, Feb. 20, meeting, and the board received 60 emails in opposition to the exemption.

Ormond Beach, Mugu Lagoon set for cleanup after lawsuit

A successful lawsuit filed by the Wishtoyo Foundation has finally been resolved, resulting in new pollution control measures near the Halaco Superfund Site in Oxnard.

The Wishtoyo Foundation and its Ventura Coastkeeper Program filed a lawsuit against Arcturus Manufacturing Corporation operating near Halaco in March of 2017 alleging violations of the state Clean Water Act.

The settlement also provides $75,000 for a “Supplemental Environmental Project for Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy and an additional $75,000 as a SEP to Multicultural Education for Resources Issues Threatening Oceans Foundation Inc. for projects designed to analyze, reduce, prevent, or otherwise mitigate the ecological effects of stormwater and/or non-stormwater discharges into the Ormond Beach Wetlands, Mugu Lagoon, the Santa Barbara Channel and/or the Southern California Bight.”

“Because of this case, the historic discharges of pollutants from Arcturus into these sacred waterways will come to an end,” said Mati Waiya, Wishtoyo Executive Director.

United Water wins against Ventura at California Supreme Court

A 2015 decision confirming that United Water Conservation District’s groundwater pumping charges are not subject to Proposition 218 has been reaffirmed by the California Supreme Court after the city of Ventura was denied a rehearing.

Proposition 218 is a statewide proposition that requires the approval of voters or property owners for certain government charges. The city of Ventura alleged that when United Water charged the city three times the amount it charges agricultural users to fund conservation efforts, it violated Proposition 218. Supreme Court Associate Justice Leondra Kruger, however, writing the majority opinion, said that groundwater conservation fees do not fall under the ballot measure.

Conversely, the court ruled that United’s fee must be fair and reasonable, as required by Proposition 26.