Agriculture

Vidovich fires back: Kings Co. water pipeline battle picks up steam

A battle between one of Kings County’s largest farming outfits and a water district over the trenching of a massive underground water pipeline grew hotter on Friday.

Two days after the Tulare Lake Canal Company sued Sandridge Partners, the farming and water giant owned by John Vidovich, to halt trenching work on a water pipeline set to cut across the company’s south of Stratford, Vidovich turned the tables and filed suit against Tulare Lake Canal.

Friday, Sandridge Partners along with Roller Land Company filed a cross-complaint against Tulare Lake Canal and Lemoore contractor Wood Bros, Inc.

The key allegation: Tulare Lake Canal and Wood Bros, Inc. placed heavy equipment on the canal embankment to block further construction of the Vidovich-led pipeline.

In the cross-complaint, representatives for Sandridge argue that water wouldn’t flow through the canal bank until May 2022 at the earliest.

“The trenching in the area of the ditch to place the pipeline and sleeve underground was to last only five (5) days, commencing on January 26, 2022,” the cross-complaint reads. “Cross-complainants strategically selected the month of January to commence this Project because Tulare Lake Canal does not use the ditch to deliver water during this time of year.”

The complaint from Sandridge claims Wood Bros, Inc. and Tulare Lake Canal “caused to be parked several pieces of their large construction equipment and vehicles on the embankments of the ditch within the staked parameters of where the trenching was to take place for the Project.”

It goes on to claim that Tulare Lake Canal and Wood Bros, Inc. moved a truck towing a trailer along with an excavator, motor grater, and bulldozer onto Sandridge property the day trenching was set to begin.

“Those machines were parked in a line across the two embankments along the ditch essentially forming a wall to block the trench of the Project,” the cross-complaint notes, pointing to a photo exhibit.

The complaint points to three causes of action.

Two of them, trespass and nuisance, are applied to both Tulare Lake Canal and Wood Bros, Inc. The third, aiding and abetting trespass, was alleged against Tulare Lake Canal for retaining Wood Bros, Inc. to place the equipment on the property to block trenching.

Clarity on the pipeline’s purpose

Prior to Wednesday’s suit filing by Tulare Lake Canal, little was known about the pipeline project spearheaded by Vidovich.

The project gained initial notoriety courtesy of a report from SJV Water’s Lois Henry, but Vidovich remained mum on what kind. water would be moved through the pipes and where.

The cross complaint provides one bit of insight for curious Kings County farmers and residents by clarifying the purpose of the pipeline.

In the filing, representatives for Sandridge state the project has twin aims: first to run water for agricultural and commercial uses.

The complaint does not elaborate to specify what classification of water, such as groundwater or surface water supplies.

The other element of the project? 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].”

The Sun reached out to representatives for the Stratford Public Utilities District, the principal agency that supplies water and sewer service to the unincorporated town in southern Kings County, for additional information on the sewage project.

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.