Bakersfield sued over “dewatering” of Kern River
Several public interest groups sued the City of Bakersfield Nov. 30 alleging the city has been derelict in its operation of the Kern River by diverting most of its flows to agriculture and other uses leaving a dry riverbed through the heart of town. … Even though the city operates the river per a century of agreements and judicial decrees, the lawsuit states, the city still has an obligation to study the harm those diversions may cause to the environment, fisheries and even the recreational value of a flowing river. The case hinges on a concept known as the “public trust,” under which the state holds all natural resources, including water, in trust for the most “beneficial use” for the public. That includes water covered by 100-year-old rights, which includes most of the rights to waters on the Kern.