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PRESS RELEASE: Court of Appeal Sides with Mojave Pistachios and Grants Amicus Briefs

(Ridgecrest) – The Fourth Appellate District, Court of Appeal issued an order last week granting permission for four amicus briefs to be filed in support of Mojave Pistachios.

In the first amicus brief, submitted by the California Farm Bureau Federation, Dairy Cares, Western Growers Association, and American Pistachio Growers, the authors urged: “The California Legislature did not intend for SGMA to become a tool used to strip landowners of their water rights.”

The second amicus brief, authored by the California Building Industry Association, states that “homebuilders rely on certainty in planning housing development in a time where California faces a housing crisis,” and “if the ruling stands, landowners may receive project permits, but then face a SGMA agency who could declare a zero-water allocation to their project from a particular water basin.”

The court also granted permission to Searles Valley Minerals, Inc. and a coalition of Madera County landowners (Elizabeth Cardoza, Clay Daulton, David Gill, Landon Gill, Michele Lasgoity, Monica Lasgoity, Rosemary Lasgoity, Jeff Lefors, Mark Peters, Sally Roberts, Candace Khanna, Rakesh Khanna, Taisto Smith, SWD Investments, Inc., and SWD Investments-Fulton Ranch, Inc.) to file amicus briefs in support of Mojave Pistachios.

“[The IWVGA] does not have the power, nor should it be able, to de facto adjudicate groundwater rights and then extort a person or entity into paying unlawful fees or risk losing water” stated Searles Valley Minerals, Inc in their brief.

The coalition of Madera County landowners stated, “We believe the trial court’s order in this case is contrary to SGMA and the well-established common law of overlying water rights.”

In 2020, Mojave Pistachios filed suit against the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (IWVGA), asking the court to invalidate the IWVGA’s unconstitutional Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) and actions implementing the GSP. This action came after the IWVGA gave Mojave, a zero-groundwater allocation. The complaint alleges, among other contentions, that the IWVGA misused the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in an attempt to eradicate agriculture from the Indian Wells Valley.

Mojave Pistachios filed its petition for writ of mandate to the Court of Appeal in February after the trial court agreed with the IWVGA’s argument that Mojave Pistachios should not be allowed to challenge the IWVGA’s pumping allocations or prove up its takings case against the IWVGA. Mojave Pistachios is hopeful this petition will cause the IWVGA to comply with SGMA by following the law, not by using strongarm practices that are unfair and divisive. Appellate courts rarely grant writ relief; approximately 90-95 percent of petitions for writ of mandate are summarily denied.

Established in 2011, Mojave Pistachios farms approximately 1,600 acres of pistachios near Ridgecrest, California.

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