Roseburg files water rights lawsuit

Deborra Brannon

Roseburg Forest Products filed a lawsuit Friday to restore water rights the company alleges were taken from it unlawfully by the Scott Valley and Shasta Valley Watermaster District.

According to a Roseburg press release, the SSWD apportioned without notification some of Roseburg’s water to another local company, J.H. Baxter & Co.

The release said the reapportionment had been done “impermissibly and illegally.”

The lawsuit claims that the water rights modified by the SSWD “were initially granted in 1932 and transferred to Roseburg when it purchased the land from the previous owner in 1982,” the release stated.

It further stated that, as “watermaster,” the SSWD’s primary function is to “ensure that water in a river of stream system is distributed in accordance with established rights” and that modifying Roseburg’s rights was contrary to the SSWD’s “legal authority.”

The press release included a reminder to the City of Weed that a 50-year lease agreement for water is set to expire in 2016.

Roseburg spokesperson Ellen Porter said in the release that Roseburg has offered and continues to offer to sell a portion of its water to the city, as well as provide funding for projects to drill for wells that could help the city address its imminent need to secure a reliable source of water.

“We hope this lawsuit will provide the impetus for our elected officials to take a leadership role in making sure all of us in Weed will have ample water for years to come,” she said in the release.

Weed City Manager Ron Stock said the city is continuing in its efforts to negotiate a “fair and reasonable agreement.”

In March, Stock said, Weed Mayor Bob Hall sent a letter to Roseburg Forest Products president Allyn Ford asking him to become personally involved in negotiations for the purchase by Weed City of two cfs of Roseburg’s rights in Beaughan Springs, the source of the water in question.

Hall’s letter stated that negotiations with Roseburg had reached “an impasse.” It also stated the city’s willingness to “cover the costs of hiring a professional, skilled, and experienced mediator” to assist in establishing a fair value for the water.

According to Stock, the City never received an answer from Ford.

“We would appreciate it if Roseburg would take these negotiations more seriously. If this is important to Roseburg, decision makers should be at the table negotiating,” Stock said.