Yuima-Pauma water dispute fallout felt across Pauma Valley
August 27, 2015Considering the nearly 65 years of disputation over Pauma Valley groundwater rights, perhaps it's unsurprising that the fallout from a recent court ruling favoring one Pauma Valley water district over another should reverberate this week.
Rancho Pauma Mutual Water Company officials issued press releases applauding the 21-page July 31 ruling by the state's 4th District Court of Appeal at San Diego that Rancho Pauma Mutual Water Company, based on a 1950 agreement, didn't have to provide more than 1,350 acre-feet of water out of its five Rincon Ranch groundwater wells to the Yuima Municipal Water District. An acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre, one foot deep in water. One acre foot equals 325,851 gallons.
The latest developments included the appellate court on Aug. 21 denying a rehearing petition filed by Yuima MWD. The district has spent an estimated $1.4 million in legal fees and continues to debate whether to continue appealing the decision rather than negotiate with Rancho Pauma.
Then, Yuima directors controversially appointed a new member to fill an open seat and gave executive director Lynn Burzell a $25,000 raise.
The tiny district's director Burzell already was making more than $300,000 annually in salary and benefits ranking him second in pay for all 16 San Diego County water district directors, many at agencies with far more customers than Yuima.
One of the district's five sitting directors this week vowed to bring recall papers to the next board meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28.
The 1950 agreement was between a group of Pauma Valley landowners led by Peter Strub and uphill water users who eventually became the Palomar Mutual Water Company. Palomar Water became Improvement District A before being folded into the newly created Yuima Municipal Water District. Meanwhile, the Strub group eventually became Rancho Pauma's Mutual Water Company.
A 1953 agreement between the two groups finalized the 1950 agreement. The two sides squared off again in 1963 over water rights and in 1968 went to court where Rancho Pauma's rights were upheld.
Rancho Pauma sued Yuima MWD again in 2013 saying Yuima had broken the Strub Agreement. A court ruled in Rancho Pauma's favor, which caused Yuima to appeal the decision to the state appeals tribunal. In upholding Rancho Pauma's side of the agreement, the court also ordered Yuima MWD to repay all court costs.