(Ridgecrest) – The Fourth Appellate District, Court of Appeal issued an order last week compelling the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (IWVGA) to show cause as to why the Court should not grant Mojave Pistachios’ petition for writ of mandate in its legal action challenging the IWVGA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). Mojave’s petition asks the court to rule on questions of state-wide importance, including that pumping allocations adopted by groundwater sustainability agencies like the IWVGA must be consistent with California groundwater rights law.
In 2020, Mojave filed suit against the IWVGA, asking the court to invalidate the IWVGA’s unconstitutional GSP and actions implementing the GSP and requesting more than $255,000,000 in damages. 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 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. Appellate courts rarely grant writ relief; approximately 90-95 percent of petitions for writ of mandate are summarily denied.
The California Farm Bureau, Western Growers Association and Searles Valley Minerals each filed an amicus letter with the Court in support of Mojave’s petition. In its letter, Western Growers Association states “We believe that the trial court order in this case is contrary to SGMA and undermines the longstanding rights of landowners.”
Last week’s order gives the IWVGA an opportunity to submit a formal response brief and the parties may then request oral argument. Further, the order also stays the trial court case pending a further order from the Court of Appeal.
Established in 2011, Mojave Pistachios farms approximately 1,600 acres of pistachios near Ridgecrest, California.