Nipomo Community Services District Sued Over Santa Maria Water

Today’s Tribune reports that the Nipomo Community Services District (NCSD) has been sued over its proposed agreement to purchase supplemental water from The City of Santa Maria. You can read the Tribune’s story here. You can read the actual lawsuit here. According to the Tribune, a local environmentalist named Gordon Hensley has sued the NCSD claiming that the proposed water deal between the NCSD and Santa Maria is based on nothing more than speculation:

It’s too risky to approve more building in Nipomo based on the assumption that the town will get water from Santa Maria, according to a local environmentalist who is suing the town’s services district to redo its long-term water plans.

The Nipomo Community Services District has been working for several years to secure water from its neighbor to the south and build an $8 million pipeline to import the water.

Gordon Hensley, executive director of the San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper group, said that water is not guaranteed, but the district’s recently adopted water management plan states as fact that Nipomo will pipe in 3,000 acre-feet — enough to serve 6,000 homes — a year from Santa Maria.

The Tribune notes that Mr. Hensley wants the NCSD to re-write its Urban Water Management Plan, adopted 1/26/06. You can read that plan from the NCSD’s website here. The Tribune outlined why Mr. Hensley wants the NCSD to re-write this plan:

Nipomo’s management plan outlines the town’s water availability based on several supply-and-demand scenarios. District and county officials use the plan to figure whether there is enough water to support new growth.

Last week, Hensley filed a lawsuit attempting to get the district to rewrite the plan.

“Since every development proposal made from now on will look to this document to justify continuing the rapid-pace conversion of agricultural land and habitat on the Mesa, the plan must provide an accurate evaluation the district, the county and the public can rely on with certainty,” said Hensley, a former member of the Los Osos Community Services District board.

The suit claims that the plan should be overturned for two reasons:

• Santa Maria could decide at any time not to sell Nipomo water, or an environmental review could find that a pipeline is not feasible;

• A settlement in a nine-year-old lawsuit over groundwater rights in the Santa Maria area is still not complete.

Ok, now we’re getting to the root of this lawsuit. Let’s see just what we know. There’s a guy named Gordon Hensley, who is the executive director of some group called San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper. The Tribune describes him as a “local environmentalist.” If you go to their website here, you will see it appears to be some environmental group, headed up by this Gordon Hensley. But, if you click on any of their links, you will see they have absolutely nothing listed under their self-described categories of FEATURES | CAMPAIGNS | ACT NOW | EDUCATION | EVENTS. Absolutely nothing! They do nothing? Yet, their website has a neat little logo

saying they are some kind of environment group in the public interest, and they further describe themselves as:

“The San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper is a program of Environment in the Public Interest (EPI) dedicated to enforcement of water quality, watershed, and coastal planning regulations in Northern Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Southern Monterey County.”

I’m not exactly sure what that means, or what it has to do with them filing a lawsuit against the NCSD; but, perhaps as time goes along we will learn more about their group, their agenda, and just what they want.

What else do we know? Well, there’s Gordon Hensley. What about him? Well, he doesn’t live in Nipomo. He actually resides somewhere in Los Osos, because at one time according to the Tribune, he served on the Los Osos Community Services District. You can see Gordon’s smiling face below:

And also over at his voter information website here, when he ran for the Los Oso CSD. What the Tribune story neglects to say is that Mr. Hensley didn’t do such a great job over there in Los Osos as a CSD Director. In fact, the Los Osos voters FIRED him for several reasons, including, according to a prior Tribune story:

• Violating basic First Amendment rights of the public to speak and criticize government in public meetings — by repeated use of fear, intimidation and lawsuits against private citizens.

• Wasting public resources for years to promote a “bait and switch” sewer, rejected by a majority of people who just wanted the darn thing moved.

• Ignoring citizens and furthering speculative land interests, and driving local residents from their homes with excessive costs for water, fire and sewer services.

• Spending citizens’ money for electioneering. Starting construction with fewer than 30 days before a vote, engaging in “scorched earth policy” and a “spend-into-submission” strategy designed to further intimidate the voters.

• Violating environmental law by changing from downtown ponds to a “buried” plant to one 40 feet tall without California Environmental Quality Act disclosure, when the cheapest alternative was always out of town.

• Misleading vacant land owners who cannot build with this sewer because there is not enough water.

• Misleading citizens about sludge and spills. How is trucking sludge to Santa Maria sustainable or responsible?

• And locating a sewer in a drainage ditch, a “sewer-spill-away” from the back side of a national estuary. How is this “good” for the bay? All sewer plants spill. Why would this one be different?

Why did the “CSD 3”:

• Accept bids 46 percent over engineer’s estimate, against all professional advice?

• Award the same engineer, who estimated wrong, a $7.5 million management contract based on percentage of the high bids? They get paid more when it costs us more. Outrageous!

• Attempt to remove citizens by force for asking questions about board financial conflict of interests?

• Reduce meetings to once a month, with 40 items about fiduciary responsibility on the waiting list, never to be heard?

• Hijack public TV Channel 20 for electioneering, even after legal complaints were filed?

• Cancel citizen committees and hide financial files from directors?

• Conceal information to promote a fire tax three times the necessary amount, which was defeated by voters who developed the cheaper solution?

• Lie about water board authority when it can’t mandate sewer type or location, according to state law?

• Lien peoples’ homes without a vote and then complain about lawsuits? What do you think people are going to do, with $200-plus a month, with no vote, with no choice?

• Lastly, calm themselves about propaganda being stuffed into our mailboxes at an alarming rate? We all know that marketing is not reality; smart voters won’t be fooled or scared again.

Yep. This is the same Mr. Hensley who Los Osos voters recalled from public office. Gosh, how lucky are we down here in Nipomo to be able to benefit from Mr. Henlsey’s timely filing of this lawsuit to save ourselves from our own elected NCSD Directors for adopting this horribly flawed Urban Water Management Plan?

I guess after being thrown out of public office, Mr. Hensley had some extra time on his hands, and apparently contacts with a San Luis Obispo Attorney, Babak Naficy. Umm . . . that name sounds familiar–where have we heard that before down in Nipomo? That’s right, Babak Naficy of the EDC represented our own local environmental group Save the Mesa, in their lawsuit extorting a couple hundred thousand dollars from the Woodlands Developers. They didn’t stop the project; but, did hit a payday.

So, you might ask, why is a San Luis Obispo attorney, representing a guy in Los Osos who is part of a so called environmental group, suing the Nipomo Community Services District? What ties are there here in Nipomo? Good question. According to page 3, paragraph 4, lines 15 to 17 of the petition, Mr. Hensley through his attorney Naficy states:

Coastkeeper brings this action on its own institutional behalf and on behalf of its members including members who live or work in San Luis Obispo County and in particular the Nipomo Mesa area.

Ok, so who are these members who live or work in particular on the Nipomo Mesa? Not one person is identified in the lawsuit! Is our local elected water board being sued by local Nipomo residents who are for some reason hiding behind a wall of anonymity? Why is that? Of what are they ashamed? Why not identify themselves in this lawsuit? If its for the public’s benefit why can’t we publicly thank our fellow residents for bringing this fabulous lawsuit on our collective behalf?

I know, let’s write Attorney Babak Naficy who’s email is babaknaficy@sbcglobal.net, and ask who are these masked clients who are suing on our behalf. I have sent such an email, and encourage you to do th same. You can also reach Gordon Hensley at g.r.hensley@sbcglobal.net. Let’s send a thank you email to Babak and Gordon expressing our gratitude for filing this lawsuit against our local CSD board, in an attempt to disrupt several years of work by the NCSD and a potential $8 million pipe line, and take more of our rate payer money to defend this idiotic lawsuit. And why? Well according to Hensley the lawsuit is to halt “the rapid-pace conversion of agricultural land and habitat on the Mesa.”

That’s what this lawsuit is about. It’s about growth. It’s about some unidentified individuals’ warped sense rapid-pace conversion of agricultural land and habitat on the mesa. Something that is absolutely not happening. This is another prevarication, a canard of grand proportion. One that potentially can have a very detrimental impact on our community:

If the lawsuit is successful, it could wreak havoc on the district’s attempts to manage the struggling groundwater supply, LeBrun said.

The county Local Area Formation Commission required the district to adopt the plan before any annexations into the agency’s boundaries can be completed.

At the request of the services district and the South County Advisory Council, county supervisors in December raised the water shortage severity level to the highest degree.

District officials are trying to get new developers to annex into the district so they don’t form their own mutual water companies. Mutual water companies would allow people to pump from the groundwater basin and give them priority to that water.

If the aquifer continued to decline, a mutual water company could continue pumping, while the district would have to look for more supplemental water.

The lawsuit “is a very big deal,” LeBrun said. “It is in the interest of every customer in this district that we develop supplemental sources of water. This document is one of our first steps.”

Despite the potential disruption this lawsuit might bring, NCSD officials are quite confident they have laid the appropriate groundwork, and properly prepared The Urban Water Management Plan:

Michael LeBrun, general manager of the services district, acknowledged that the future is not certain. But a consulting firm he described as top-notch prepared the document and only included water sources if they reached a certain level of certainty.

“What I understand is we met the threshold,” LeBrun said. “We feel that the document is solid.”

The district has worked out a deal with the city of Santa Maria that Nipomo will get 3,000 acre-feet of water per year. The district also paid the city a deposit for that entitlement.

Santa Maria has more water than its future growth will need, said Dwayne Chisam, the city’s utility director.

Santa Maria already sells water to southern neighbor Orcutt, Chisam said. It also benefits ratepayers by selling it to neighbors.

The settlement in the long-running lawsuit was signed last summer.

It will be interesting to watch this litigation unfold. I hope the District’s Counsel will take no prisoners and go after these guys in as aggressive a manner as the law allows. In the meantime, I urge you to drop Attorney Naficy and Gordon Hensley an email and ask them to identify who, if anyone are the real parties in interest down here in Nipomo. Is anyone who actually lives down here in any way involved in this litigation?

Another question that comes to mind about growth is how much growth does Mr. Hensley and his group feel is appropriate for us down here in Nipomo? We already have a growth cap at 1.8%. This is lower than that of the county generally which is at 2.3%. Make no mistake, this is an effort by an extreme minority not to control growth–but to halt it completely. That is exactly what this lawsuit is about. These people will stop at nothing to achieve that goal.

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10 thoughts on “Nipomo Community Services District Sued Over Santa Maria Water

  1. Guy..thanks for all of the information. This is the fourth lawsuit in two years that does not address who the members of the lawsuit are.

    Your discussion of the growth cap is correct. We are at 1.8%, but that doesn’t include the hundreds of homes being built in the Woodlands or the commercial building which is just about ready to start up on Tefft making traffic unbearable for the next few years.

    The idea behind the 1.8 cap was for the county and cal trans to identify our problem areas and begin to pencil in Nipomo for some past due updating of infrastructure. Nothing has happened much to the frustration of the SCAC traffic and circulation committe and the counicil.

    It seems that some interested parties are trying to make sure that our water is halted just like our traffic. We are at levels of E and F and at a Level 3 for water.

    I for one, would like to see someone in the county take on these issues.

  2. Bonnie,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I understand the arguments about the infrastructure, and I believe I agree with most of them. It is pretty clear from the traffic along our main corridors that the planning and the existing infrastructure are not in harmony.

    I don’t share the belief about the water shortage in Nipomo. The finding of Judge Komar doesn’t support that argument. To me the level 3 designation is a political designation, not one based on any actual water shortage. The fact remains that if they wanted, the NCSD could at any time commission a study to support a Water Code section 350 finding or declaration of a true water shortage. This is a finding, that if actually supported by the empirical evidence would and could legitimately bring construction in Nipomo to a halt.

    I don’t sit on the NCSD board; however, my assumption is that the reason they do no invoke Water Code section 350, is that they could not possibly support such a declaration by objective, credible, empirical evidence. In my humble opinion, if Nipomo’s water shortage, is as bad as some claim, then the NCSD is remiss in not acting under section 350; but, again the fact they have never done so, tells me there is no such shortage.

    That said, I do not mean to imply we can or should throw caution to the wind, and build with wild abandon in our community. But, there are legitimate means whereby we can and should plan for and control our growth.

    In my opinion, I don’t believe the type of lawsuit discussed in this Tribune article is a legitimate means. On its surface it is clear the two main players, the attorney and Mr. Hansen have NO Nipomo connections. I don’t know whether the allegations in the complaint about them representing people who actually live out here are true or not. If so, I’d like to know just who these individuals are. I’ve sent both the attorney and Mr. Hansen an email requesting that they identify these so called Nipomo residents; but, both of them so far have ignored my email request.

    I have a hard time believing the allegations in the complaint have any merit whatsoever. The Urban Water Management Plan appears to have been well studied, thought out and prepared, by reputable professionals.

    Anyway, it will be interesting to see how things play out. Thanks again for your comments.

  3. In a follow up conversation I had today with Bonnie: Let me clarify I do not and did not mean to imply in my original post that I think any particular group in Nipomo, including Save the Mesa is involved with this lawsuit. I truly do not know who is involved which is why I am asking the question. My mention of Save the Mesa above was simply because they were at one time represented by the same attorney who is now representing these mystery clients here in Nipomo.

  4. Pingback: Nipomo News » Follow Up On Coastkeeper Lawsuit Against NCSD

  5. Pingback: Nipomo News » Update On Coastkeeper v NCSD Lawsuit

  6. The “politics of water” is as old as pre-Columbian California (no doubt), and it certainly pre-dates the Calif. Aquaduct, as viewers of “Chinatown” can tell you. What are his creds? that he fought water treatment in Los Osos? Is he using an out-house? where does his “waste” + “water” go? The only way to reclaim what little water there is requires sewage treatment. Primer: Capture the waste stream, treat it, reclaim the water (percolation back to underground storage), then wells to bring it back up, treatment to drink & do-se-doh! Recycling water is the most critical recycling effort REAL environmentalists promote. Mr. Hensley? Hmmm. What’s the hidden agenda? perhaps he is an ‘agent provacateur’ in an “environmental- ist” archetype? Controlling water/sewer connections used to be the power-politics of the left, but more recently, the politics of the right-anti-affordable-housing running dogs who like their ‘hoods fine like they are. Someone please, expose this charlatan for the fake he may be – and, “Peace”!

  7. Pingback: Coastkeeper Lawsuit Against NCSD Thrown Out « Nipomo News

  8. Pingback: Coastkeeper Lawsuit Against NCSD Thrown Out « Nipomo News

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