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Groups Sue California's Largest Water Wholesaler Over Land Purchase

  

Two counties, two water agencies and environmental groups in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are suing California’s largest water wholesaler over its efforts to buy five islands in the Delta.

The lawsuit alleges that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California improperly exempted itself from state environmental reviews in its $175 million purchase of Delta land.

Metropolitan has suggested using the land for habitat restoration or to facilitate Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to build two tunnels to carry water to southern California.

But Metropolitan attorney Catherine Stites says the court challenge is premature.

“Right now we don’t know what we’re going to do with the property, and in fact it could be held status quo for a while with no changes," Stites says. "But when our board decides what they’d like to do with the property, we will do further environmental analysis as required.”

San Joaquin County Counsel Mark Myles says the review is not premature.

“We think that when you spend $175 million on 20,000 acres that are hundreds of miles from your district, we think you’ve moved pretty far down that line and you’ve committed yourself to that project,” Myles says.

Escrow on the sale of the land is expected to close in early June.