| For immediate release: April 19, 2006
Suit Filed Over Effort to Eliminate Water Conservation District
San Bernardino, Calif. – The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court today that challenges a decision to eliminate the “sphere of influence” of the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District. The decision by the Local Area Formation Committee of San Bernardino (LAFCO) is the first step in its effort to dissolve the Water Conservation District entirely and reassign its functions to the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District. The lawsuit charges that LAFCO’s action violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to adequately analyze the resulting environmental effects.
“LAFCO is attempting to hobble the Conservation District and then kill it altogether,” said Adam Keats, staff attorney for the Center. “This action would undoubtedly have a negative environmental effect, and LAFCO cannot ignore state law that says that it must address these concerns.”
For more than 100 years, the Conservation District has taken local water from the Santa Ana River as it drops into the valley and diverted it into spreading basins just southwest of Greenspot Road, recharging the ground water in the Bunker Hill Basin. The Municipal District was formed in 1954 to import water from the State Water Project. It stores the imported water in a number of ground water basins, including Bunker Hill.
The two agencies have dramatically different purposes. While the Conservation District is mandated to conserve local water and protect the environment, the Municipal District is primarily concerned with finding water and providing it to users. Critics contend that eliminating the Conservation District will result in further decreases to life-sustaining flows in the upper Santa Ana River, as the its focus on conservation is shoved aside by the Municipal District’s desire to supply water to developers. Such a scenario would come at the expense of numerous rare plants and animals that rely on surface flows in the watershed.
“The upper Santa Ana River has already suffered changes in water regimes that are jeopardizing a number of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world,” said ecologist Ileene Anderson. “Getting rid of the Conservation District and replacing it with Municipal District is just like having the wolf guard the henhouse. It will further imperil all the plants and animals in the area, and we just can’t let that happen.”