HOW THE LAWSUIT AGAINST CARNEGIE WAS SETTLED

A QUICK SYNOPSIS

It has been almost three years since petitioners, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed an action against California State Parks alleging violations of state laws regarding water quality standards as well as failure to protect soil conservation standards and wildlife habitat at Carnegie. See: http://carnegieforever.org/carnegie-svra-status/

The case has now settled and a Stipulated Judgment has been filed describing the terms of the settlement.

Initially the appellate court ordered the CSPA and PEER to first work with the Water Board. After the Water Board ignored petitioners’ demand that the Water Board take enforcement actions on claims alleged in their first, second and third causes of action, CSPA and PEER filed an amended complaint naming California Regional Water Control Board Central Valley as a real party of interest along with the State Parks.

The State Parks had been working with the Water Board for years before the lawsuit was filed. They continued to work with the Water Board preparing the appropriate studies and then came up with a Storm Management Plan for Carnegie in order to receive a Small MS4 permit. A Clean Up and Abatement Order was later incorporated into an amended Storm Management Plan.

The parties negotiated a settlement based on the permit issued by the Water Board. The State Parks’ agreed to comply with the conditions of the permit and prepare a modified Storm Management Plan that includes procedures to ensure compliance with water quality standards. Carnegie was also required to maintain the wet weather closure policy and to submit an annual report describing the activities performed and the effectiveness of the Storm Water Management Plan for each reporting period.

You could say that we did not win the lawsuit because we agreed to pay CSPA and PEER’s attorney’s fees and costs of $65,000. This amount was about seven times less than what was originally demanded probably because, other than closing the canyon to off-highway vehicle recreation, the lawsuit didn’t accomplish anything that would not have been accomplished without their participation.

The state resolved water quality issues at Carnegie notwithstanding the lawsuit. The inflammatory language used to describe our riding area did have an effect though. The judge closed the three hundred foot wide “creek bed” to off road recreation because a trickle of water might flow through it a few weeks a year. As far as I can recall I never once ran over a fish in all the years that I rode my bike through the valley floor dodging brush and flying over dry sandy whoops.

You might want to review Big Yellow Taxi and This is Our Land in my blog to see how I interpret what happened with the Water Board and how the Storm Management Plan for Carnegie has affected the trails we can ride.

Stay tuned; because although the lawsuit will be dismissed with prejudice (meaning it can’t be refiled), the threats to our riding area have not gone away. Our adversaries are intent on getting their hands on land bought with OHV trust fund money for OHV recreation and converting it to a historical, cultural and biological preserve. With no Off-Highway Vehicles allowed… Stay tuned.

Dry Creek-bed

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