Those who assert that the water rights lie with the city are dismayed that the council made the decision just six weeks before a Siskiyou County judge was scheduled to rule on the lawsuit, which was originally filed in May of 2017.

The Weed City Council voted 4-1 in closed session on Thursday to settle a lawsuit against Roseburg Forest Products and acknowledge it has no ownership of water from Beaughan Springs.

In addition, the council voted to submit a formal offer to purchase Beaughan’s water rights, said Weed City Manager Ron Stock, although city attorney Bob Winston said “it does not appear there will be a purchase of water rights by the city at this time,” as proposed terms are “quite far apart.”

Those who assert that the water rights lie with the city are dismayed that the council made the decision just six weeks before a Siskiyou County judge was scheduled to rule on the lawsuit, which was originally filed in May of 2017.

Weed Mayor Ken Palfini signed a statement last week recognizing Roseburg’s rights to the water and agreed to end all claims to the water rights. Judge Karen Dixon then issued a “stipulated judgement” against the city, closing the case.

The City of Weed signed a lease with Roseburg Forest Products three years ago, providing access to the springs for the next 10 to 15 years while negotiations could be completed or other arrangements could be made, and that lease remains intact.

Councilor Bob Hall cast the sole “no” vote during the closed session discussion on Aug. 8, said Winston, with Palfini and councilors Stacey Green, Kim Greene and Sue Tavalero voting in favor of the settlement.

The Water for Citizens of Weed group asserts that the city’s negotiations with Roseburg and water-related deliberations “were all done in secret, with no opportunity for community input or review.”

Several people showed up at Thursday’s council meeting to express their trepidation during public comment before council went into closed session. Many urged the council to wait until the case had its day in court, which was scheduled for Sept. 30 in Yreka.

“The only thing this proves is that Roseburg had more financial resources to fight this case than did the City of Weed,” said WCWC’s Bruce Shoemaker. “It is simply wrong for Roseburg to be allowed to use legal bullying to get its way by intimidating and trying to bankrupt our community. It is a shame that, due to the city’s capitulation, these compelling issues may never have their day in court.”

WCWC President Jim Taylor said citizens had uncovered a number of historical documents confirming the intention of International Paper to give rights to Beaughan Springs’ water to the people of Weed.

“It became obvious that Roseburg has exploited a lack of clarity in the historical record, many related to bad record keeping by state agencies, to pursue its illegitimate, greedy and unethical strategy intended to take away the water we depend on – all so they can make money off of it,” said Taylor. “The city’s unwillingness or inability to pursue this lawsuit does not change those facts.”

As part of the stipulated judgement, Roseburg agreed to pay the city $50,000 towards attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by the matter. Both the city and Roseburg waived the right to recover any additional fees or costs.

WCWC members are concerned that Weed citizens will end up paying for water that they believe already belongs to them.

City manager Stock said despite best efforts over several years, the city was unable to prove that Beaughan Springs’ water belonged to the city, though he believes International Paper did have that intention.

He said the city will seek to acquire water rights from Roseburg by negotiation or via the power of eminent domain.

SLAPP lawsuit

The settlement of the case does not bring an end to the ongoing “SLAPP” (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) lawsuit initiated by Roseburg against nine Weed citizens, known collectively as “the Weed 9” and WCWC.

Roseburg appealed the December, 2017 Superior Court decision which ruled the lawsuit was a “SLAPP” and the citizens and the group could not be sued for exercising their constitutional rights when they asked local government agencies for help.

The court later ruled that Roseburg must reimburse the defendants for their legal fees and costs.

In a court filing on Aug. 9, Roseburg asked for a two-month delay in the case but indicated it hoped to settle the case through negotiations during this time period, said WCWC.

“If Roseburg thinks we are going to negotiate on the legal fees and court costs we were awarded by Superior Court in exchange for them dropping the appeal, they had better think again,” said Shoemaker. “We are confident we have a strong legal case. This is a textbook illegal ‘SLAPP’ intimidation lawsuit. We look forward to watching their lawyers attempt to defend the indefensible in court in Sacramento.”