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Appeals court upholds P.V. Water Management Agency's pumping fee

Donna Jones, Santa Cruz Sentinel

WATSONVILLE - An appeals court has let stand a fee on groundwater pumping in the Pajaro Valley.

Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency Director John Eiskamp filed the lawsuit against his own agency in an attempt to get the fee overturned and win a refund on payments made between 2002 and 2010.

A year ago, Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Jeff Almquist ruled in favor of the agency, saying the issue had been decided in previous litigation.

Wednesday, the state Sixth District Court of Appeal agreed.

The $80 fee, known as an augmentation charge, was levied by the agency board in 2002, and has since been replaced by charges approved in a 2010 vote.

When he filed the lawsuit, however, Eiskamp worried the agency would continue to collect the 2002 fee. It has not. Eiskamp also hoped to claim a $14,541 refund and the invalidation of bills totaling nearly $12,000 related to the charge.

But two courts have now agreed the matter was settled in an agreement ending litigation over similar fees imposed by the agency in 2003 and 2004. The agency lost in that case, but the plaintiffs in the case signed away the right to challenge the 2002 fee. The courts found the agreement was "binding and conclusive" on all persons, including Eiskamp.

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