Tehama County Faces Legal Battle Over Grand Jury Report on Groundwater Well Registration Fees

RED BLUFF, Calif. — Tehama County officials have responded to the recent Grand Jury Report, stating that they are unable to comment directly on the report due to ongoing litigation. The report focused on the groundwater well registration fee in Tehama County and made several recommendations for the county’s groundwater sustainability agency.

One of the key recommendations from the Grand Jury Report was the compensation of individuals who had paid the well registration fee. The report also called for the groundwater sustainability agency to find a way to repay a loan of approximately $634,000 that was borrowed from the county’s road department to fund the agency.

According to the grand jury, there were issues with the equity of the fees and the procedures used to assess and administer the well registration fees. The implementation and administration of these procedures were found to be inconsistent. The report highlighted the need for the groundwater sustainability agency to have accurate information on the location and number of wells in order to determine the appropriate fee.

The grand jury recommended that the repayment plans for the loan should not rely on grant money or inequitable landowner fees, especially for properties that are not within the priority groundwater sub-basins. Additionally, it suggested that the authority of the groundwater sustainability agency should align with the sub-basins defined under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

In response to the report, the Tehama County Board of Supervisors expressed appreciation for the grand jury’s investigation. However, they stated that they are unable to comment directly on the findings due to the ongoing litigation surrounding the matter. The Board acknowledged the complexity of the legal issues involved and expressed their hope for a resolution in the court of law.

To shed light on the legality of the groundwater well registration fees, the Board had authorized the release of a legal memo from outside counsel, Michael Colantuono of Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley, PC. Colantuono, an expert in municipal finance, provided the Board with legal advice that formed the basis for their decision on the fee collection.

The county’s response emphasizes the ongoing nature of the litigation and their willingness to await its resolution through proper legal channels. As the negotiations continue, there is hope that a fair and equitable solution will be reached to address the concerns raised in the Grand Jury Report.