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Orange County

Water Fight Getting Nastier

Yorba Linda district files a countersuit against the county agency in a lengthy dispute over who should supply some city residents.

September 25, 2004|Daniel Yi | Times Staff Writer

Yorba Linda Water District officials said they have filed a $23.5-million lawsuit against the county water agency over a dispute that stems from a 34-year-old agreement.

In the complaint, filed Thursday in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, the Yorba Linda district alleges that the Orange County Water District has failed to honor a 1970 contract that obligates the county agency to supply up to 2,800 acre-feet of water annually to eastern Yorba Linda residents free of charge.

The Yorba Linda district had been servicing those customers since 1978 without knowledge of the agreement, the lawsuit contends, and therefore should be compensated.

Yorba Linda district officials learned of the agreement when a copy of the document surfaced in January, they said, but county water officials countered that the agreement is not enforceable. In response, the Yorba Linda district began withholding the $200,000 it pays the county agency every two years for the supply of underground water, Yorba Linda water agency officials said.

County water officials sued for the unpaid dues in September. Thursday's action is a countersuit. County water officials could not be reached for comment.

Yorba Linda's complaint alleges the county district signed the 1970 agreement as a replacement to a 1899 contract between the former Anaheim Union Water Co. and the owners of Bryant Lands, a large tract in what is now eastern Yorba Linda.

The Anaheim Union agency had agreed to supply water to the landowners in exchange for a right of way to build a canal in the property.

The Orange County Water District acquired Anaheim Union Water Co. in 1967 and inherited the obligation, Yorba Linda officials content.

Because the county district did not supply the free water, the Yorba Linda agency had to spend about $6.5 million for construction of pipelines and reservoirs to import more-expensive water from other sources, the lawsuit alleges. The area has been fully developed since the early 1980s with homes and businesses, the complaint says, and Yorba Linda has supplied about 38,000 acre-feet of water to the area at a cost of $17 million.

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