Orange County Coastkeeper has agreed to settle a lawsuit with the city of San Juan Capistrano and Blenheim Facility Management over allegations storm water and non-storm water was being illegally discharged from an equestrian riding park run by the city and managed by Blenheim into San Juan Creek without a permit, officials announced.
The city and Blenheim deny all allegations in the lawsuit, but agreed to resolve the litigation in order to avoid the costs and uncertainties of a trial, according to a joint statement from the three parties released Friday.
The suit also alleged the city reconstructed the Arizona Crossing -- a manmade road through San Juan Creek -- without the required permits after it was damaged by storms in 2010 and "allowed unpermitted materials to remain in the creek," the statement said.
As part of the settlement the city and Blenheim will, among other things, obtain all required water quality permits and develop plans for improvements at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in the 27100 block of Ortega Highway, implement an employee training program for all staff at the park focused on compliance with all applicable water quality laws, restore and stabilize the San Juan Creek bank adjacent to the park and remove unpermitted Arizona Crossing materials from the creek, the statement said.
"This agreement represents a collaborative effort to protect and restore fishable, swimmable and sustainable water resources that our communities depend on for our health and lifestyle," said Coastkeeper Executive Director Garry Brown. "We are pleased that the city and Blenheim have committed to complying with all local, state, and federal water quality regulations, and we look forward to working with them over the next few years as capital improvements are made for the betterment of our communities and the preservation of our Southern California way of life."
OC Coastkeeper agreed to provide the city with 30 days notice of any potential lawsuit and work with the city and any other equestrian facility in San Juan Capistrano to resolve any issues before filing a lawsuit.
"I'm grateful that our city's internationally-recognized equestrian facility will be able to continue its award-winning riding competitions, annual rodeo, and other recreational and sports-related activities," stated City
Manager Benjamin Siegel. "The improvements to the Riding Park that we have agreed to as part of this settlement will benefit our community by ensuring compliance with regulatory agencies, protecting our natural resources and helping to preserve San Juan Capistrano's equestrian heritage."
The city will also fund $1 million in projects through the California State Parks Foundation that will benefit the San Juan Creek watershed and pay Coastkeeper $1.9 million for its expert and attorney's fees.