WATERTWOCC

Pictured is the North Fork of the Kern River feeding into Isabella Lake. The snowpack is well above normal for this time of year. 

Casey Christie/For The Californian

In the ever-twisting world of water, the City of Bakersfield lost a case to North Kern Water Storage District but ended up with a $1.64 million payout.

Years ago, when Bakersfield bought rights to the Kern River from Tenneco West, it paid for the purchase through bonds.

It repaid those bonds by entering a long-term contract to sell some of its river water to North Kern and two other water districts at $20 per acre foot.

The contract was up in 2012 and the city alerted the water districts it would no longer be selling them water.

North Kern sued under an extension term in the contract that said the city would still sell water to North Kern unless the city could show that it had a need and a “project to divert” that water for use on city-owned property. And that all other water available to the city was already in use.

North Kern won in state court and, last year, won against the city's appeal as well.

That meant that every year, the city would need to make a determination as to whether it had surplus water to sell to North Kern, said Dick Diamond, North Kern’s general manager.

Which brings us to this past summer when the city did have some water stored in Isabella Lake — about 40,000 acre feet.

North Kern made a case that if it had water to store, that meant it was "surplus."

In August, a judge agreed and ordered the city to sell 20,000 acre feet to North Kern.

Considering the city also owed water to other local entities, the city appealed that order.

That appeal was moving forward when the weather changed and, suddenly, the city had lots of water.

Under terms of the contract that North Kern sued to keep in place, a wet year shifts the burden so that North Kern must buy the city's water and take it out of storage.

Now North Kern will pay $82 per acre foot for a total of $1.64 million and take the water out of the lake, which actually frees up more storage for the city.

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