SAVE THE DRAGON
LITIGATION UPDATE JANUARY 2020
NRWMAC TAKES ON MONTEREY COUNTY
OVER MISMANAGEMENT OF LAKE NACIMIENTO RESERVOIR
It has been one year since the Nacimiento Regional Water Management Advisory Committee (“NRWMAC”) filed its lawsuit against the County of Monterey, and other agencies in that county, each of which has some responsibility for managing Lake Nacimiento. Or rather, mismanaging it.1 The lawsuit alleges that the various agencies named as defendants (for the sake of brevity, all are referred to herein as “Monterey County”) have, among other things, failed their obligations to operate the lake in such manner as to provide sufficient water levels for recreation. When the level becomes too low, docks and launch ramps become unusable and navigational hazards emerge from under water. This happens entirely too often in the peak summer months, causing harm, financial and otherwise, to the community of residents, businesses and lake enthusiasts who depend on the lake for its recreational use. These are NRWMAC’s constituents, approximately 6500 in number, on behalf of whom the lawsuit was filed.
Since the dam was built and the lake was formed in the 1950’s, there have been several interests competing with each other over how the water should be used, and to what extent. The interests have included those of farmers in the Salinas Valley, who have always gotten the lion’s share of the water for irrigating their crops. Other demands on the water include the flow requirements of the Salinas River Diversion Facility (in effect, a reservoir), the mitigation of saltwater intrusion, the recharge of groundwater, and the federal environmental requirements set in place to support a fish habitat. However, NRWMAC’s 6500 constituents also have rights to the use of this water, and for over 25 years NRWMAC has fought, and continues to fight, to ensure that these rights are recognized and honored.2
In the current litigation, NRWMAC has been involved in a lengthy and continuing negotiation process with Monterey County over what the lake level should be. (To allow for settlement discussions to proceed while keeping litigation costs to a minimum, the parties agreed to stay the court action.) Although the specific details of the talks are shielded by a confidentiality agreement, in general terms they concern the level at which the lake should be maintained from April through Labor Day each year. NRWMAC asserts that the water in the lake must be maintained during these months at 750 feet above mean sea level (msl), with adjustments made for drought years. At 750 feet msl, the capacity of the lake equates to approximately 40%. At this level, launch ramps are fully usable, as are docks and other facilities, and most hazards to navigation remain submerged. The lake is safe and enjoyable.
NRWMAC has come a long way in its litigation this past year. It has made great progress towards resolving critical issues, thanks to its team of attorneys, water rights experts and negotiators. NRWMAC is confident it has a path to success in order to make Monterey County change its lake operations procedure to support recreation and keep the lake at a mutually acceptable level. Without NRWMAC’s intervention, via the current litigation. Monterey County would continue to ignore the recreational aspects of the lake. Some local realtors have opined that if Monterey County’s actions aren’t curtailed or changed, property values around the lake may decline as much as 25% in the next few years.
However, NRWMAC cannot stop Monterey County without major financial support to sustain its litigation. NRWMAC needs the help of landowners, businesses and other interested parties around the lake if it’s going to succeed. To fund the lawsuit, NRWMAC created a GoFundMe campaign, with NRWMAC board members donating $15K in seed money. Although the campaign has raised over $150,000 to date, much more is needed. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of NRWMAC’s constituents have supported the effort financially.
NRWMAC has asked various people why they haven’t donated. One recurring answer is based on a mistaken belief that Monterey County and the agricultural interests are too powerful to fight. This is not true: NRWMAC has fought them before, and is fighting them now, and can and must prevail. Other responses demonstrate that many people are simply unaware of NRWMAC, do not know what NRWMAC does, or do not know about the GoFundMe page.
That is why this update is coming to you. The reality is that the lawsuit has been filed on your behalf, as well as on behalf of your friends and neighbors. NRWMAC has a strong position and can resolve this lawsuit against Monterey County in your favor, but it needs your support to keep up the fight. Without help, NRWMAC’s constituents may lose their representation. Property owners and lake enthusiasts could be left to fend for themselves against Monterey County, which will almost certainly continue to use the water in Lake Nacimiento as it sees fit.
Please donate today, using the GoFundMe link below, or if you prefer you can privately donate using the nrwmac.org link, or mail a check to NRWMAC at PO Box 398, Paso Robles, CA 93447.
2A NRWMAC representative attends all the Monterey County Reservoir Operations Committee meetings (“RESOPS”) to ensure that its constituents’ voices are heard. (NRWMAC has a seat on the RESOPS board as a result of a prior lawsuit against Monterey County.) Members of the NRWMAC Board of Directors conduct outreach meetings and have participated in media interviews in order to apprise the public of developments concerning the lake. And it has filed lawsuits and complaints with state regulatory agencies to protect the lake and its constituents.]
Thank you for your continued support.
– Links to more documents and the NRWMAC Legal Actions can be found here : NRWMAC Knowledge Base