A-Z Law Partner John Mathews recently spoke at the meeting of the Board of Directors of the United Water Conservation District regarding Casitas Municipal Water District vs. United States, a court case pending in the United States Court of Federal Claims. Mr. Mathews was asked by the United Board to provide the background and status of the case. Mr. Mathews serves as the General Counsel to the Casitas Municipal Water District.
The issue in the case stems from the diversion of water away from the Robles-Casitas canal and toward a fish ladder constructed by Casitas. The construction of the fish ladder was required under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The central question in the suit is whether the diversion constitutes a regulatory taking — for which no compensation would be given to Casitas — or physical taking that requires compensation to Casitas for the value of the loss of the water. The water, if it were not diverted to the fish ladder, would be diverted into Lake Casitas for uses by the constituents of Casitas.
Mr. Mathews explained to the Board that the judge must first determine whether a physical taking occurred and, if so, what is the value of the loss to Casitas. Casitas and the federal government have each presented different models to calculate the value of the water “loss” by Casitas, if indeed any loss is found to have occurred.
The case is being watched closely by water purveyors throughout the United States. The settling of this constitutional question could affect water districts all over the country. A decision is expected sometime later this year.