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Two California water districts, Stockton East Water District and Central San Joaquin Water Conservation District, and the County of San Joaquin, City of Stockton, and California Water Service Company, have filed suit against the U.S. seeking $500 million in damages and just compensation for the federal Bureau of Reclamation’s failure to deliver water to them from New Melones reservoir since 1993.
Plaintiffs in the suit together serve over 300,000 water users. The suit was filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C.
"The government has refused to deliver water that the state allocated to us to serve the people of California," said Kevin Kauffman, general manager of the Stockton East Water District. "The district paid $65 million to construct the Goodwin Tunnel and other facilities to bring this water to our customers, but the system is bone dry most of the time," he added.
"The government obligated itself to deliver 155,000 acre feet each year to the people of the Central Valley, got California to issue water rights to satisfy the contract, then took the water and ran," said Nancie G. Marzulla, attorney for the districts. "The government must reimburse those entitled to the water and who constructed the massive facilities to convey the water," she added.
In a similar suit, involving Tulare Lake Water Storage District and Kern County Water Agency, located south of Stockton, the same court recently handed down a judgment of $26 million against the federal government. Marzulla is also counsel in that case.
In 1980, the California legislature charged Stockton East Water District with the management of the groundwater basin underlying eastern San Joaquin County, and gave it special powers to acquire additional surface water supplies for the benefit of its water users and the mitigation and prevention of environmental damage to and permanent destruction of the San Joaquin groundwater basin. Stockton East Water District encompasses approximately 116,300 acres situated in eastern San Joaquin County, California, including all of the City of Stockton. It provides treated municipal and industrial water to the City of Stockton, California Water Service Company and certain other entities, which in turn serve approximately 305,905 urban and 23,300 rural residents. SEWD also delivers irrigation water to approximately 70,000 acres of agricultural land.
Central operates and maintains water facilities that convey water for beneficial use to agricultural water users including over 60,000 acres within its boundaries, which also overlie the critically overdrafted San Joaquin groundwater basin. Central is located in eastern San Joaquin County, Calif.