Monterey County reaches settlement over environmental lawsuits

Jan 13, 2015

A Salinas Valley strawberry field.
Credit Tom Wilmer

A couple of environmental lawsuits filed against Monterey County were settled Tuesday—at least for the time being.

Landwatch Monterey County and The Open Monterey Project sued back in 2010 following the adoption of the new county's General Plan. Those two lawsuits were combined.

The plaintiffs were concerned with management of the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin, encroachment of agriculture on the county's hillsides, blockage of wildlife corridors, and other aspects regarding the county's agriculture and wine industries.

"Landwatch is really thrilled that we were all able to reach a compromise," said Amy White, Landwatch Executive Director. "It is truly a compromise because everybody had to budge a little."

Les Gerard is the Chief Assistant County Counsel for Monterey County and says the points agreed to in the settlement still need to have public hearings and be approved by county leaders. Those proceedings could start as early as next month and will likely be up for adoption in the fall.

"We basically have calendar year 2015 to get things considered and adopted," said Gerard. "But if we're not done by the end of calendar year 2015, then we're back in court."

Gerard says the groundwater sustainability legislation passed by the state last year helped Monterey County get to this point with today's settlement.