Multiple Lawsuits Dampen General Plan
GPU5 water rules irk environmentalists and growers.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
In typical Monterey County fashion, the recently approved 2010 General Plan has ticked off both ends of the water politics spectrum.
The Board of Supervisors approved GPU5, as the 20-year development blueprint is known, in late October, after more than a decade of legal and political haggling. But on Nov. 24, at least four groups filed suit – including growers who say its water policies are too restrictive, and land-use watchdogs who say the policies are too lenient.
LandWatch Monterey County asks Monterey County Superior Court to suspend the county’s authority on development decisions until it revises assumptions about the region’s future water supply.
“They’re saying they have enough water for future build-out of the Salinas Valley, and it looks like they don’t,” says LandWatch Executive Director Amy White.
But the Salinas Valley Water Coalition and Monterey County Farm Bureau contest a GPU5 provision requiring would-be developers to verify a sustainable water supply over an “indefinite” timeframe.
That’s unfair to landowners who pay higher assessments to support the Salinas Valley Water Project, which was designed to meet the valley’s agricultural and urban water needs through 2030, the lawsuit argues.
“There was a contract made between the county and the landowners through which certain things were agreed,” says SVWC President Nancy Isakson.
The lawsuit asks that landowners in the Water Project area be exempt from the water rule through 2030.
The Carmel Valley Association and The Open Monterey Project also sued, alleging GPU5 violates the California Environmental Quality Act and zoning laws.
At press time, county attorneys hadn’t reviewed all of the lawsuits, but they weren’t surprised by them, says Assistant County Counsel Leslie Girard.
“We took a very reasonable policy stance with regard to water policy,” he says. “Some might say that since we’ve got it coming from both ends, we’ve probably found the best course somewhere in the middle.”