Friday, December 22, 2017

An update on a Calif. town's battle for water access

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Things are heating up on a story from 2016 about a Northern California town's battle with a lumber company over water access. Oregon-based Roseburg Forest Products charged the residents of Weed, Calif., only $1 a year for the past 50 years for spring water piped in from land it owns nearby, but in July 2016 the company began charging $97,500 a year and encouraged the town of 2,700 to look elsewhere for water. A company spokesperson said at the time that Roseburg couldn't guarantee the availability of the water in the long-term, but residents speculated that Roseburg wanted to increase its water sales to Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring, which bottles water in Weed and was looking to increase its supply. Weed residents argued that the water has been used by the town for more than a century and was always intended for municipal use, not for sale.

Seven months after the original story was published, "A group of residents sent a letter to the district water office asking to clarify the ownership of the municipal water. They also convinced the Weed City Council to back their request," Brian Fuller reports for The New York Times. "Roseburg responded by suing the residents and the Weed City Council."

The town's lawyers asked California Supreme Court Judge Karen Dixon to dismiss Roseburg's lawsuit, citing a state law that allows defendants to strike down lawsuits meant to silence criticism. Last week, Judge Dixon ruled in favor of Weed and dismissed Roseburg's lawsuit, Fuller reports. The battle over who owns the water will continue in court.

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