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Tank Temporary Injunction Denied, Proceeds to Trial

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Synopsis

Los Angeles Superior Court ruled today on the temporary restraining order, and injunction, sought against Las Virgenes Municipal Water District regarding the 5 million gallon storage tank project. Linked below is the seven page ruling, and two press releases -- one from each side of the case.

Judge Joanne B. O'Donnell denied the injunction for now, noting that she did not have enough evidence from either side. The case is expected to proceed to trial in due course.

Full Announcement from Opposition

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joanne B. O'Donnell issued today a ruling on the temporary restraining order, and injunction sought by Frank Bonvino against Las Virgenes Municipal Water District regarding the 5 million gallon storage tank project. Judge O'Donnell outlined in her seven page ruling several areas that appeared to require additional information and discovery resulting in a denial of the injunction to stop the Tank Project's current construction.

She mainly focused on the statute of limitations (30 and 180 days after the Tank project was first approved in 2009) to challenges the LVMWD's actions and opined the matter should have been brought to court earlier or within these time frames when the Tank Project was first approved. Importantly however she opined that there currently is not enough evidence before the court, from either side, about why an MND and not a full and complete EIR was conducted and not later amended.

At present, the case has enough merit to continue to proceed, and the intention is to go to trial in due course after determining the full and complete investigation conducted or not conducted by LVMWD and it is still an open question as to whether District violated the public process and adhered to the statutory requirements.

Contrary to the LVMWD press release of earlier today, the court did not:
- make any determination of whether the district followed process or not;
- did not determine that the process provided ample opportunity for the public to be heard;
- did not opine on whether there's increased fire risk without a tank;
- made no assessment of Valley Fever risk, and cites that it may be incomplete or incorrect; and
- did not confirm, as stated by President Charles Caspary indicated, that the District correctly followed due process.

"While the temporary injunction was not granted, the Court's actions and comments made it clear that there was sufficient merit to the case moving forward to trial," said Barry Steinhardt, Director Division 5 of Las Virgenes Municipal Water District. "In fact, the judge not only admonished the District's counsel during the hearing, but made it clear in the written decision, that a great deal of justification information by the District was missing, and that the Court would expect to see that, as well as more explanation of what went wrong from the public's point of view. Furthermore, it is a pure play on the public's fear that we do not have enough water to fight fires. The District has not provided any evidence, and when questioned, LA County Fire Department says that we are not out of compliance."

Full Announcement from LVMWD

(CALABASAS, CA June 4, 2014) The request by a homeowner for a Preliminary Injunction seeking to stop construction of a 5-million gallon storage tank at Las Virgenes Reservoir in Westlake Village was denied at a Los Angeles Superior Court hearing conducted Wednesday, June 4. Superior Court Judge Joanne B. O'Donnell ruled in favor of the District on all points and approved the project to proceed. The Judge found that the District followed the proper process to approve the project, the process provided ample opportunity for the public to be heard, and delay of the project would pose increased fire risk to the area due to insufficient fire flow. The Judge also noted that the District performed a "thoughtful assessment" of the Valley Fever risk and that no credible evidence was presented to substantiate the alleged threat of Valley Fever. As a result, Las Virgenes Municipal Water District (LVMWD) continues to move ahead with the project, which is nearly 30 percent complete.

“We’re pleased the court confirmed the District followed a rigorous public process allowing ample opportunity for public input on the project,” said David W. Pedersen, LVMWD’s General Manager. “The District has been and continues to be committed to transparency, particularly when it considers major capital projects. As a public agency providing essential services to some 70,000 people, we cannot compromise or risk public health and safety when the facts indicate the need for a specific project,” he said.

LVMWD Board President Charles Caspary said, "We are very pleased with a favorable ruling and confirmation that the District followed the appropriate process to approve the project. The District will continue to work with the community, including the litigant, to minimize inconveniences caused by construction and to complete the project as quickly as possible."

Construction began on the 5-million-gallon tank in March; it is scheduled to be complete in June 2015.

Las Virgenes Municipal Water District provides potable water, recycled water, wastewater treatment services and biosolids composting for some 70,000 residents of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Westlake Village and surrounding unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

Full Text of Court's Preliminary Ruling

Click the enclosed PDF to see the court's preliminary ruling.