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Abatti Responds to IID’s Supreme Court Filing

High Court Scheduled to Discuss “Water Rights” Case on June 24.

Imperial Valley grower, landowner and former elected official Michael Abatti has responded to the Imperial Irrigation District’s official filing in his U.S. Supreme Court petition. 

Michael Abatti, Imperial County farmer

The official response was filed sometime Monday, June 7.

In March, Abatti filed for a “writ of certiorari” with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District’s decision in Abatti v. Imperial Irrigation District, to which the district was ordered by the High Court to provide a formal response last month.

In the IID’s May filing, it states Abatti’s “entire argument is premised on the notion that this court in Bryant vs. Yellen not only held that landowners in the Imperial Valley in California have a federally protected right to water from the public irrigation district, but held that landowners have a federally protected and irrevocable right to a particular allocation of water.

“In fact, Bryant held neither,” the IID filing continues. “The only federally protected water right Bryant recognized is the water right perfected by the irrigation district itself.”

Abatti is seeking to overturn a previous appellate court ruling that asserts Imperial Irrigation District is the “sole owner” of water rights in the Valley, and farmers do “not (have) an appurtenant water right” but rather are entitled merely to “water service” that is subject to modification by the district at its discretion.

Abatti’s response filing from June 7 states: “This Court should grant the petition, resolve the conflict in the lower courts, and reaffirm the water rights protected by federal law.”

Further, Abatti’s court filing claims IID misinterpreted Bryant vs. Yellen, but also claims there are more wide-reaching consequences of not taking up the case. 

“Farmers like the Abattis often enter contracts with purchasers guaranteeing delivery of crops in the future,” according to the filing. “Imperial Valley farmers cannot reasonably make the ‘on-going financial, legal, and contractual obligations’ necessary to support billions of dollars in agriculture and related businesses when they can no longer predict whether they will receive the water necessary to support their crops. The uncertainty caused by the decision below will cause ‘farmers to reduce their investment and future output’ to the detriment of consumers nationwide.

“The court of appeal’s ruling that farmers have no such rights damaged the value of hundreds of thousands of acres of land, including that of the Abatti’s,” according to Abatti’s filing. “…The injury here is not simply the loss of water right that farmers previously possessed for over one hundred years. That injury is not remedied by annually sending landowners before jurist to plead for something to which they should already be entitled.”

The court is scheduled to discuss the case on June 24, according to the U.S. Supreme Court website.