In a ruling published last week, a California Superior Court made a sweeping ruling against Inyo County’s attempted eminent domain takeover of Los Angeles’ land and water rights. The years-long pursuit by Inyo has effectively been sent back to the drawing board and will require not only a complete restart, but also comprehensive environmental review, in order for Inyo to proceed. The litigation, which Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) officials had repeatedly sought to put on hold in an effort to find a peaceful resolution that would address Inyo’s waste management needs and LADWP’s environmental and water quality concerns, may now cost Inyo as much as $2 million in damages to Los Angeles.
Judge Kenneth C. Twisselman II, who presided over the case in neutral Kern County, ruled May 29,2020, that Inyo County and its Board of Supervisors violated state law when they attempted to forcibly take control of land and water rights from Los Angeles. He held that, contrary to their assertions, the County’s project was not exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). At trial, he explained, “Inyo has not conducted any environmental review in connection with the project.” Therefore, “importantly, neither the public nor the agency decision-makers were informed about possible significant environmental effects.”
Judge Twisselman ordered the Board of Supervisors to rescind its actions, and ordered the County to pay LADWP’s costs of the lawsuit. His order not only resolved the CEQA case, but also paves the way for resolving the County’s three related eminent domain cases in LADWP’s favor.
Martin Adams, LADWP General Manager and Chief Engineer, described the court’s decision as “the proper resolution to the County’s ill-advised attempt to circumvent state law.” He added, “This is an important victory not only for LADWP, but also for other water rights holders in California, including ranchers and other private citizens. Inyo sought to condemn city property and take water rights from a municipal water supplier without identifying any specific use for the water and without considering the environmental impacts. Left unchecked, Inyo’s actions could have set a terrible precedent with far-reaching consequences for property owners throughout the State of California.”
 Hearing Transcript at page 68, lines 26-27.
 Hearing Transcript at page 69, lines 2-4.