Judge denies TOAV’s motion to end water rights suit (October 6, 2010)

A nearly two-year legal battle over water rights tied to the Apple Valley Country Club is still headed toward trial, after a judge denied the town’s motion to immediately rule in favor of Apple Valley.

To make that summary judgment, Superior Court Judge Gilbert Ochoa would have had to find that there was no way High Desert Community Foundation could win if the suit went to trial. Ochoa was scheduled to rule on that motion Oct. 14 but said he needed more time to write his opinion.

On Monday, Ochoa denied 15 of the 16 issues Apple Valley had raised to settle the suit in the town’s favor. One count, arguing that the foundation failed to prove it holds sole rights to the water, was upheld.

Following that decision, both sides said they’re confident the case is moving in their favor.

A day after the town’s Nov. 18, 2008, announcement that it intended to buy the struggling country club, Apple Valley filed suit against the nonprofit foundation over water rights tied to the property. HDCF then filed a counter-suit, claiming its right to pump the 709 acre-feet of water valued at an estimated $3.8 million.

The country club asserts ownership by virtue of having pumped the water for six decades and under the 1996 Mojave River Basin adjudication.

However, HDCF holds a deed to the rights that has been purchased or otherwise transferred six times since the country club was founded 62 years ago, when town founders Newton T. Bass and Bud Westlund reserved the water rights as a commodity separate from the club’s donated land.

Ochoa previously denied HDCF’s request to transfer the case to the Riverside court, denied Apple Valley’s request to throw the whole case out and then denied the foundation’s request to stop the town from drilling a new well on the golf course.

HDCF filed its own motion for summary judgment a month after the town’s request. Ochoa is scheduled to rule on that motion Nov. 4.

If that request also fails, the suit will continue moving toward its scheduled jury trial starting Dec. 6.

Apple Valley has already spent more than a half-million dollars in legal fees battling for the rights. Mayor Peter Allan has said he anticipates that tab will jump by up to $300,000 if the suit goes to trial.

Source: Daily Press