New Groundwater Decision Hands Water Agencies a “Win” But Leaves Unanswered Questions

By Richard Wallace

It’s inevitable. With chronic water shortages in California, rights in groundwater are thrust to the limelight. In a past newsletter article, we reported about California’s new groundwater legislation . And a trial court in Sacramento County has ruled that the “Public Trust” doctrine can apply to groundwater , a ruling that seems destined for the appellate courts. More

June 28, 2016
Who Takes The Lead? Court Clarifies Which Is The “Lead Agency” For Environmental Review Of The Projects By Public-Private Partnerships

By Lisabeth Rothman

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) calls on state and local agencies to review the environmental effects of projects before approving them. When an agency partners with a private entity to undertake a project for which other agencies must issue approvals, which agency should take the lead in conducting the environmental review? Getting this right is important if for no other reason than that project opponents may seek to undo a project’s approval by challenging the choice of lead agency. The Court of Appeal recently wrestled with just such a challenge in two cases about a water supply project and clarified how a public/private partnership should be analyzed under regulatory Guidelines governing selection of the correct lead agency, and when during the CEQA process agencies can delegate responsibilities for overseeing project operations. Taken together, the cases provide important guidance for how agencies can structure their relationships to enhance the likelihood that their decisions on these issues will be upheld. Lisabeth Rothman of Briscoe Ivester & Bazel was counsel of record in one of the cases and assisted with the briefing of the other. More

May 17, 2016
California Farmers And Builders Urge U.S. Supreme Court To Help Unmuddy The Clean Water Act

By Peter Prows

The Clean Water Act is so unconstitutionally vague as to require direct policing by the courts, a coalition of California farming and building groups told the U.S. Supreme Court this week in a brief filed by Briscoe Ivester & Bazel LLP. The case, United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., presents the issue whether determinations made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that a property contains wetlands regulated by the Clean Water Act may be challenged in court. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in an earlier case, held that such determinations (called “jurisdictional determinations” (or JDs)) cannot be challenged in court. But the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, in the Hawkes case under review, held that they can. More

March 4, 2016
New Regulations Up the Ante for California Water Diverters

By Peter Prows and Max Rollens

Beginning next January, a new State Water Resources Control Board regulation will impose strict new measuring and reporting requirements for water rights holders across California—with stiff daily penalties for noncompliance. In total, the new regulation will impact approximately 12,000 water users, reaching down to those who divert just 10 acre-feet per year or maintain stockponds with a mere 10 acre-feet capacity. Failure to meet the host of new requirements could leave people liable for penalties of up to $500 per day. More

February 29, 2016
Sylvia McLaughlin

By John Briscoe

Sylvia McLaughlin was godmother of the modern environmental movement in the United States. In that way I introduced her to audiences many times, including the time the Bay Planning Coalition presented her the Frank Boerger Award, to her everlasting delight.

But Sylvia would ever correct me by saying it was Kay Kerr and Esther Gulick who midwifed that movement beginning in 1960, a full 10 years before the first Earth Day, with only a bit of help from her. Sylvia was, in fact, the fiercest of those three tigresses but regardless, the three did usher in the movement when they founded the Save San Francisco Bay Association, which became remarkable for several reasons. More

February 1, 2016
California Coastal Commission Forces Constitutional Dilemma On Beachfront Property Owners

By Peter Prows and Max Rollens

For coastal homeowners, this year’s El Niño means heavy surf and greater-than-average rainfall, which, when combined, can wreak havoc upon beachfront properties. Although many homeowners sit protected behind adequate seawalls, others lie exposed, vulnerable to these winter storms. When the time comes to repair or replace a seawall, coastal property owners need to understand the complex policies and procedures of the Coastal Act—and, if the Coastal Commission gets its way in a pending California Supreme Court case, may also need to give up constitutional rights. (Briscoe Ivester & Bazel LLP is representing, as amici in the case, the organizations Coastal Property Owners of Santa Cruz County, Beach and Bluff Conservancy, Protect the, and Seacoast Preservation Association. More

December 15, 2015
State Lands Commission to Make Itself Judge of Who Owns What Land

By John Briscoe

The State Lands Commission, charged with administering some of the tide and submerged lands owned by the State, is constructing its own administrative proceeding to decide who owns land the Commission claims is owned by the State. Boundaries of lands near water—or formerly near water, for that matter—are often difficult to ascertain. Ownership is equally often in legitimate dispute. Until now, the Commission would sue in an independent court to determine who actually owned the land it claimed. The proposed administrative proceeding, in which the Commission will be both prosecutor and judge, will have broad powers to extract fines of $1,000 per day or more from persons who do not readily acquiesce in the State’s land claims, and agree to give over their lands. More

June 5, 2015


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