HISTORY OF ULARA ADJUDICATION
Water rights in ULARA were first established by the JUDGMENT AFTER TRIAL BY COURT in Superior Court Case No. 650079, entitled The City of Los Angeles, a Municipal Corporation, Plaintiff, vs. City of San Fernando, et al., Defendants, signed March 14, 1968, by the Honorable Edmund M. Moor, Judge of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County.
Numerous pre-trial conferences were held subsequent to the filing of the action by the City of Los Angeles in 1955 and before the trial commenced on March 1, 1966. On March 19, 1958, an Interim Order of Reference was entered by the Court directing the State Water Rights Board (now known as the State Water Resources Control Board) to study the availability of all public and private records, documents, reports, and data relating to a proposed order of reference in the case. The Court subsequently entered an Order of Reference to State Water Rights Board to Investigate and Report upon the Physical Facts (Section 2001, Water Code) on June 11, 1958.
A final Report of Referee was approved on July 27, 1962 and filed with the Court. The 2-volume Report of Referee provided a detailed evaluation of the geology and the hydrogeology of ULARA, insofar as it affects the occurrence and movement of groundwater and surface water within the adjudicated area. In addition, investigations were made of: the history of channels of the Los Angeles River and its tributaries; the areas, limits, and directions of flow of groundwater in the 4 groundwater basins within the adjudicated ULARA region; the historic extractions of groundwater and the water quality of the pumped groundwater in those 4 basins; and the various sources of water entering and leaving ULARA. The Report of Referee served as the principal basis for geologic and hydrologic facts for the original Trial Court Judgment in 1968, the Decision of the California Supreme Court in 1975 (14 Cal 3d 199, 123 Cal Rept 1), and the Trial Court Final Judgment on remand dated January 26, 1979.
The Trial Court issued its opinion on March 15, 1968. The City of Los Angeles filed an appeal with the California Court of Appeal, which held a hearing on November 9, 1972, and issued its opinion on November 22, 1972. The opinion, prepared by Judge Compton and concurred with by Judges Roth and Fleming, reversed, with direction, the original judgment handed down by Judge Moor. In essence, the City of Los Angeles was given rights to all water in ULARA, including the use of the local groundwater basins but with some limited entitlements to others. The defendants, however, were given the right to capture "return water", which was considered to be water served to their customers that percolates back into the groundwater basins (see below).
A petition for rehearing was filed by the defendants on December 7, 1972, but was denied by the California Court of Appeal. On January 2, 1973, the defendants filed a petition for hearing with the California Supreme Court. On March 2, 1973 the California Supreme Court advised the parties it would hear the case. The hearing began on January 14, 1975.
On May 12, 1975, the California Supreme Court filed its opinion on the ongoing 20-year San Fernando litigation. This opinion, which became final on August 1, 1975, upheld the Pueblo Water Right of the City of Los Angeles to all groundwater in the San Fernando Basin derived from precipitation within ULARA. The City of Los Angeles' Pueblo Water Right was not allowed to extend to the groundwater within the Sylmar and Verdugo basins. However, all surface water runoff and groundwater underflow from Sylmar and Verdugo basins were considered to be part of Los Angeles' Pueblo Water Right.
In addition, the City of Los Angeles was given a right to all groundwater in the San Fernando Basin derived from "return water" imported by the City from outside ULARA and either spread or delivered within this groundwater basin. The Cities of Glendale and Burbank were also given rights to all groundwater in San Fernando Basin that is derived from "return water" that these two cities imported from outside ULARA but delivered within ULARA. The City of San Fernando was not a member of MWD until the end of 1971, and had never prior thereto imported any water from outside ULARA. Therefore, the City of San Fernando has no right to capture "return water" in the San Fernando Basin.
In effect, the California Supreme Court reversed the principal decision of the Trial Court, and remanded the case back to the Superior Court for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion. On remand, the case was assigned to the Honorable Harry L. Hupp, Judge of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County.
The Final Judgment (Judgment), signed by Judge Hupp, was entered on January 26, 1979. The water rights set forth in the Judgment are consistent with the opinion of the California Supreme Court described above. The Judgment includes provisions and stipulations regarding: water rights; the calculation of imported return water credit; storage of water; stored water credit; and arrangements for physical solution water for certain parties as recommended by the California Supreme Court.
The Judgment also provides for a Court-appointed Watermaster to enforce the Judgment. In addition, the Judgment created an Administrative Committee consisting of one voting member from each of the following five municipal water agencies: Los Angeles, Glendale, Burbank, San Fernando, and the Crescenta Valley Water District. The purpose of the Administrative Committee is to "...advise with, request or consent to, and review actions of the Watermaster."
Copies of the Judgment are available via this ULARA Watermaster website. (See Document Library.)
A separate stipulation was filed in Superior Court on January 26, 1979, appointing Melvin L. Blevins as Watermaster. On September 1, 2003, Mark G. Mackowski was appointed Watermaster following the resignation of Mr. Blevins. Richard C. Slade was then appointed by the Court as the third Watermaster to date on January 1, 2009.
The current Judge of Record for the San Fernando Judgment is the Honorable Susan Bryant-Deason.