Agriculture

Kings Co. town denies massive Sandridge water pipeline will move wastewater

The legal battle between Kings County’s largest farming and water giant and a local water district surrounding the construction of a massive, underground water pipeline has taken another twist.

The battle between Tulare Lake Canal Company and Sandridge Partners, led by John Vidovich, began last week when the water agency sued Sandridge to halt construction on its pipeline project over its encroachment – and eventual trenching under – its eponymous canal.

In a suit filed last Wednesday, Tulare Lake Canal said that trenching operations could pose significant damage to its ability to supply water to its users if installation goes awry.

Along with requesting a permanent injunction on construction from a Kings County judge, Tulare Lake Canal also demanded the Vidovich-led company secure a $5 million casualty insurance policy on the project’s construction, maintenance, and operations.

Friday, Sandridge and Vidovich fired back – tendering a cross-complaint against Tulare Lake Canal alleging the water agency hired an equipment rental company to place heavy equipment on the canal berm to block construction through the canal way.

The pipeline project, which first came to wide public knowledge in late December courtesy of a report from SJV Water, has been shrouded in mystery as to its purpose.

The cross-complaint filed by Sandridge was the first clarification about why one of the San Joaquin Valley’s biggest water players was building a pipeline on largely fallowed ground.

In the filing, Sandridge claimed the project was aimed at installing piping to move water for agricultural and commercial uses. The company also said it was installing a “sleeve” for use by the community of Stratford to “remove sewage from the City and transport it to land owned by [Sandridge Partners and Roller Land Company].”

That admission was news to the unincorporated community.

Stratford, a town of 901 residents, is reliant on Kings County for much of its government services, land use management, and planning work. However, its water and sewer service is run through the Stratford Public Utilities District.

Monday, Ray Carlson, chief counsel for Stratford Public Utilities District, said that “no ‘sleeve’ for Stratford wastewater is being built that the District is aware of.”

“There is no contract between Stratford and Sandridge regarding wastewater from Stratford,” Carlson said. “Representatives of the two parties have had one meeting regarding Stratford wastewater which was of the most preliminary nature.  No Board action on the matter has occurred or is presently foreseeable.”

The Sun reached out to legal representatives for Sandridge Partners for comment about the denial from Stratford.

This story will be updated.

Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.