Appeals court to hear arguments about Newhall Ranch water supply

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Appellate court arguments are expected Wednesday over environmentalists’ demands that Newhall Ranch developers reassess the amount of water needed to supply to 21,000 homes slated for construction.

The court date is the latest development in a legal battle launched in August 2017 by a local environmental group called Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, or SCOPE, a month after Los Angeles County supervisors approved the master-planned community. 

A lawsuit filed by the group challenging the county’s assessment of water for the project was denied in January 2019 by the Superior Court of Los Angeles, prompting SCOPE to appeal the ruling.

On Wednesday, beginning at 9 a.m., the 2nd Appellate Court in downtown Los Angeles is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case.

On Monday, Steve Churm, spokesman for Newhall Ranch developer FivePoint, issued the following statement when asked for a comment on the court date: “As a matter of policy, FivePoint does not comment on pending litigation. So we don’t have a comment on this matter at this time.”

SCOPE President Lynne Plambeck said Friday. “The biggest issue is not doing an updated water-supply assessment.”

In a brief presented to the appeals court in August, SCOPE, as well as the local group Friends of the Santa Clara River, question the county’s assessment of the housing project’s impact on the environment’s first two subdivisions.

They argue in the brief: “By that time (2017), new information had come to light and circumstances had changed substantially regarding climate change and drought, showing the projects will have significant effects on water quality that were not previously analyzed.”

In July 2017, embracing the need for housing and the promise of jobs, county supervisors gave Newhall Ranch developers the green light to proceed with two Newhall Ranch housing projects after certifying revamped reports on their environmental impact.

Newhall Ranch calls for 21,000 homes to be built between Interstate 5 and the Ventura County line and between Highway 126 and the Santa Susana Mountains.

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On Twitter: @jamesarthurholt

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