MEETING NOTES: North Kern approves eminent domain to build new water recharge facility

March 21, 2024
Sonia Lemus, freelance for SJV Water
by Sonia Lemus, freelance for SJV Water
CVP: Central Valley Project. CVC: Cross Valley Canal. KCWA SWP: Kern County Water Agency, State Water Project.
Sonia Lemus, freelance for SJV Water
Sonia Lemus, freelance for SJV Water

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Meeting: North Kern Water Storage District board of directors.

Date: March 19, 2024

Agenda and board packet: CLICK HERE

Background: North Kern, which stretches along Highway 99 from Bakersfield to near McFarland, annexed an area known as the “Rosedale Ranch Improvement District (RRID)” in 1966. That chunk of land is generally bounded by Allen and Superior roads on the east and west ends and 7th Standard and Hageman roads on the north and south sides, with another smaller section above 7th Standard.

That ground has access to very little surface water, so is mostly dependent on groundwater. It is also rapidly developing from ag to suburban uses.

In compliance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, North Kern has been working to find more water recharge opportunities. It is considering building such a facility on several parcels within RRID, which has stirred controversy among some landowners, including Rosedale Estates, which owns two parcels subject to condemnation.

Main Topic: Eminent domain hearing for two parcels within RRID totalling 119.27 acres for a recharge basin.

Hearing: The hearing opened with an explanation that when considering eminent domain, the board must consider three elements:

  • Is the project necessary?
  • Will it create a public benefit?
  • Is it being done in a manner that would net the greatest public benefit and cause the least harm?

At the hearing Attorney Robert Kuhs, who represents Rosedale Estates, which owns the parcels under consideration for eminent doman, asked several pointed questions

First, he wanted to know whether the recharge project consisted of just the two parcels owned by his clients, or if the two parcels were just a “subset of a larger project.”

North Kern Attorney Alan Doud answered that just the recharge project on thow two parcels was being considered at the hearing.

Kuhs’ questions went on.

Would the recharge basin be open to public use? No. 

Were there other recharge facilities in RRID? No.

Did North Kern have other recharge facilities? Yes.

Doud repeatedly reminded Kuhs the hearing was only to consider the three topics listed at the start.

“We’re here about decision making,” Kuhs responded. “Specifically, the decision whether to condemn our clients’ land and whether there are other options to achieve the same benefit without doing private harm.”

Kuhs also noted that the engineer’s report deemed his clients’ land as “least desirable” among seven parcels looked at in terms of recharge performance.

“Why was our clients’ land described as most beneficial to the exclusion of other parcels that were identified as higher performance for recharge?” Kuhs asked of North Kern’s General Manager Dave Hampton.

Doud quickly told Hampton he didn’t have to answer that question. 

“The district came to its conclusion and isn’t bound just by a technical memo from the engineer,” Doud said. “There is other information in the record.”

“Where is that conclusion?” Kuhs asked.

“It just is,” Doud responded.

“When was that conclusion made?”

“Robert, if you want to suggest that, in your statement, that there was some insufficiency, go ahead,” Doud said. “But I don’t think this is the forum for a Q&A.”

After the close of the hearing, one board member commented that North Kern did its due diligence and made the best decision for the district.

“And (Rosedale Estates) is being fairly compensated on the assessed value of the land, not on what they think the value is,” the board member added.

Action: The board approved the eminent domain resolution.

How to attend: North Kern meets at 7 a.m. on the 3rd Tuesday of each month. You can join via teleconference calling (877) 567‐8582 using the Phone Conference ID: 944 706 059#

Sonia Lemus, freelance for SJV Water

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.


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