Santa Barbara Channelkeeper v. City of San BuenaventuraAnnotate this Case
The Ventura River watershed is home to Southern California steelhead trout, a species listed as endangered since 1997. San Buenaventura has been diverting water from the Ventura River since 1870. Channelkeeper sued, alleging that the city’s current diversions are “unreasonable” because of the effect they have on the fish during summer months when water levels are low. The city holds water rights that would otherwise allow it to divert this water, but under the California Constitution there “is no property right in an unreasonable use” of water. The city cross-complained against other entities that draw water from the Ventura River watershed, alleging that their water use is unreasonable. The court of appeal held that the trial court abused its discretion in striking the city’s cross-complaint because the water that the cross-complaint seeks to prevent cross-defendants from using is effectively the same water that Channelkeeper asserts the city must leave in the river for the fish.