If you follow water lawsuits in the southern San Joaquin Valley, you will find the two biggest controversies in California’s groundwater world – hydraulic fracturing and the Kern Water Bank.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the newer of the two issues. A farming operation last month filed suit against several oil companies, claiming salt water from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is contaminating groundwater.
The Kern Water Bank issue dates back two decades, but the latest legal decision was made last week. A Sacramento court struck down the environmental review of the 1 million acre-foot bank – the second rejection of the state’s work on the review.
The water bank was transferred in 1995 from the state to a joint powers authority controlled by powerful ag water districts, including one representing billionaire Stewart Resnick’s Paramount Farms.
Environmentalists and fishing groups have claimed victory over the environmental review, but the court did not strike down the 1994 private agreement the state made to transfer the water bank to the Kern-based water authority.
The activists, represented by the Center for Biological Diversity, have long been incensed over the private agreement. They say they will likely appeal the part of the decision that allowed the agreement to stand.
In the fracking lawsuit, Palla Farms says it was forced to remove a dying cherry orchard in 2012 because of salt-water contamination. Oil companies have been injecting chemical-laced water nearby into underground rock to free up oil, the lawsuit said.
The farming outfit will have to remove almond trees if salt levels continue to remain high, according to the lawsuit.
Both of these issues will be around for a while. Stay tuned.