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Lawsuit Targets Water-Storage Plan

November 11, 1994|SCOTT HADLY

A $20-million plan to store Ventura County water underground has been challenged in a lawsuit, filed Thursday, that contends the project has proceeded without the proper environmental review or adequate notice to an affected landowner.

In the complaint filed in Ventura County Superior Court, Joseph Viramontez of Ventura alleges that the Calleguas Municipal Water District went ahead with plans to condemn two acres of his land near Moorpark without informing him in a timely fashion.

"When we were finally told, we noticed that there were several other sites near the area that would serve them just as well and were vacant," he said. "But they said they had already started the process and didn't want to start over again with somebody else."

Viramontez's complaint also contends the large water project should receive more thorough environmental review.

Calleguas, which supplies water for 75% of the county's residents, plans to use the site for four pumps that would send water into the North Las Posas Basin. Eventually, as much as 300,000 acre-feet of water could be stored in the underground aquifer.

The water stored in the aquifer would not only help met the county's growing water needs, district officials said, but also provide a backup supply during emergencies such as the devastating Northridge earthquake when the pipeline supplying water to the district was badly damaged.

"It's part of our long-term plan to drought-proof the county," said Don Kendall, the Calleguas general manager. But plans to begin the construction in January could be stalled if the district is forced to do a time-consuming and expensive environmental review.

Viramontez's attorney, Glen Reiser, said Calleguas must do the work to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.

Kendall said the district has already conducted the necessary environmental studies. He said plans had to go through a series of reviews by various county agencies before it was determined that it did not require a full environmental review.

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