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Judge allows notice of water lawsuit via ad in area newspaper

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Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News senior reporter
The judge in the Ventura River Watershed Adjudication lawsuit has granted an order to allow notice by publication to the remaining unserved, named cross-defendants in the case.
At the latest status conference in the case May 10, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William F. Highberger told lawyers representing the city of Ventura they could proceed to serve the summons via publication in a local newspaper to property owners who have been difficult to reach because they reside behind locked fences or gates.
Highberger also approved a modified schedule for lodging the proposed physical solution with the court for the first time.
The document will be available to share with the court at the June 21 status conference, but it won’t be lodged until the court deals with any objections to the process on that date, Highberger said.
Objections to the court getting the proposed physical solution must be filed by June 14, he added.
While Monday’s 20-minute case management conference dealt primarily with the service order and the sharing of the proposed physical solution, a much more involved discussion is expected to occur at the next status conference on June 21.
On that date, Highberger will hear a motion by the city of Ventura and other major parties to bifurcate, or split the case into two separate phases.
If he grants bifurcation, the first phase of the case would involve establishing groundwater basin boundaries and the interconnectivity, if any, between the four basins and surface waters within those boundaries.
In the second phase, proponents of the proposed physical solution would seek to get judicial approval of the document.
Also set for the June 21 status conference is a hearing on a motion to appoint an independent water expert, or “special master” to assist with the case.
Interested parties can attend status conferences in the case remotely through the court’s Remote Audio Access Program.
To register to listen to the conference set for the Spring Street Courthouse, Department 10, see https://my.lacourt.org/remoteaudio/welcome.
The case number is 19STCP01176.