EL CENTRO— Superior Court Judge Brooks Anderholt found the Imperial Irrigation District not guilty of contempt of court Tuesday, February 11, as brought before the court by farmer Michael Abatti.
“The Imperial Irrigation District has reviewed Judge Anderholt’s order denying Mike Abatti’s motion for contempt against the district and obviously agrees with the decision in this case,” said IID General Counsel Frank Oswalt. “It is a measured decision that preserves the Court’s jurisdiction, but enables this public agency, and its elected board, to continue meeting the needs of all of its water users.”
This is an extension of the litigation brought against the district by Abatti in 2013 that challenged IID’s Equitable Distribution plan and is currently on appeal before the Fourth District Court of Appeal.
In his latest legal challenge to IID’s water rights and operations, Abatti asked the trial court to find IID in contempt for violating the judge’s August 2017 order prohibiting the district from entering into any new industrial water supply contracts until it implements an EDP based on water history.
At issue is an amendment approved by the IID board late last year to an existing water supply contract with longtime customer Ormat’s Heber Geothermal Company. That amendment calls for, but does not guarantee, an additional 500 acre-feet per year to the geothermal company; as such, IID’s position is that the contract amendment does not violate Anderholt’s 2017 order.
Judge Anderholt ruled that the court found the Imperial Irrigation District is not guilty of contempt of court based upon the amendment between IID and Heber Geothermal Company, as the terms do not violate the court's Judgment from August 25, 2017 nor is it inconsistent with the findings in the court's Statement of Decision from August 15, 2017 upon which the Judgment was based.
“On behalf of the IID Board of Directors, I am gratified by the Court’s order, which ensures some level of parity among water users and categories of use going forward,” said IID Board President Norma Sierra Galindo. “This motion for contempt put all industrial water use in doubt, and I believe that with his order today, Judge Anderholt helped to remove that doubt.”