Nipomo Mesa residents sue over proposed water pipeline

Mesa Community Alliance’s lawsuit against Nipomo Community Services District seeks to block a water link from Santa Maria

clambert@thetribunenews.comMay 5, 2013 

A group of residents has filed a lawsuit challenging the Nipomo Community Services District’s plan to use some district money to pay for construction of a pipeline to bring water to the community from Santa Maria.

The Mesa Community Alliance, comprised of residents who live within the Nipomo district and surrounding areas, filed the civil lawsuit Friday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court against the services district and its board of directors.

At issue is $4 million the district plans to use from a reserve fund created to repair and replace “existing capital assets.”

District officials say use of the money is appropriate because the pipeline will reduce the district’s need to repair and refurbish its wells, and will prolong their use. The first phase of the project is estimated to cost $17.5 million.

But the Mesa Community Alliance argues the district does not have the discretion to use the money because the fund is specifically intended for “replacement of capital assets,” according to the lawsuit filed by San Luis Obispo-based attorney Babak Naficy.

Mesa Community Alliance is asking the court to stop the Nipomo services district from taking any further action on the project, including awarding a construction contract, and to void previous district board actions approving the first phase of the project and authorizing the use of $4 million.

The group is also asking for an award of costs and attorney’s fees. A case management conference has been set for June 20 in front of Judge Martin J. Tangeman.

Nipomo district General Manager Michael LeBrun said discussions will be held next week to determine how the lawsuit could affect the project.

Added district counsel Michael Seitz: “Nothing in what’s occurred to date will affect the board’s ability to move forward. The district feels like it has acted appropriately and will succeed in any court case that’s happened thus far.”

District officials said the pipeline is necessary for the Mesa to reduce its dependency on an underground aquifer, which is the area’s only source of water.

Last May, Nipomo-area property owners rejected a plan to fund construction of a $26 million pipeline by raising property taxes through an assessment district.

The board’s approval of the phased pipeline project, the Mesa Community Alliance lawsuit states, must be rejected “as it amounts to an end-run around the vote and will of the people.”

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