• Court Upholds California’s Landmark Quantification Settlement Agreement
  • December 9, 2011 | Authors: Melissa R. Cushman; Michelle Ouellette
  • Law Firm: Best Best & Krieger LLP - Riverside Office
  • The California Court of Appeal for the Third District upheld the state’s landmark agreement that helped settle long-standing disputes about the allocation of Colorado River water in California, ruling the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) did not violate the California Constitution.

    In filing the appeal for Consolidated QSA Cases, the State of California, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Imperial Irrigation District, Coachella Valley Water District and San Diego County Water Authority argued that the trial court erred in determining that the QSA Joint Powers Agreement was unconstitutional for obligating the state to pay excess mitigation costs that “were not conditioned upon an appropriation by the Legislature.” The appellate court agreed that the QSA Joint Powers Agreement imposes an unconditional contractual obligation on the State to pay excess mitigation costs, and ultimately held that the QSA Joint Powers Agreement is not unconstitutional because no party has the right to enforce the obligation and take funds from the Treasury without an appropriation.

    In addition, the appellate court, in its published opinion issued Wednesday, rejected other claims of invalidity made by opponents of the QSA, dismissed Clean Air Act and National Environmental Policy Act claims due to lack of jurisdiction and found that the trial court erred in finding the CEQA actions were moot. While project opponents had asked the appellate court to decide the CEQA claims in the first instance, the court found that it could not retain jurisdiction over the CEQA actions without suspending the litigation of the remanded validation action and causing an unjust delay. Accordingly, the court remanded the CEQA issues to the trial court, as well.