Local Ag Warns Corcoran – Suit Against Curtimade Dairy Will Have Statewide Consequences

It was standing room only as supporters of Curtimade Dairy lined the walls of Corcoran City Council Chambers during last night’s city council meeting.

Corcoran is currently suing the Curti family for $65 million dollars for damages incurred when their dairy allegedly contaminated the city’s water supply at the height of the drought in 2015. The Curtis have countered that their dairy has always been in compliance with all water regulations and permits and that the city wells have tested as having safe drinking water.

To loud applause from those in attendance, a dozen public speakers urged the city council to drop its suit against Curtimade Dairy. Local farmers and dairies say the city’s suit is just an excuse for some quick cash.

Tessa Hall, who owns the dairy with her father, gave a heartfelt invitation to the city council members to come tour their facility.

She said, “See us as human beings and the family that we are, and see the impact that a $65 million dollar lawsuit has on us.”

Tularean Xavier Avila said that Corcoran is Tulare’s sister city and that agriculture is in their DNA.

Everyone knows that ag is under attack, he said, and that when the extreme environmentalists fight to take the farmer’s water away Corcoran is the hardest hit. But Avila said that the city is unwittingly doing the environmentalist bidding by suing the Curtis and it needs to drop the suit.

“The people that want ag gone from the Valley are going to come after you (Corcoran) next.”

“It’s not going to stop,” said Avila.

Only the Lawyers Will Win

Kirk Gilkey, a third generation farmer in Corcoran, wanted to know how the legal bills were being paid. Is it “the taxpayer or is it on contingency? Who is driving this lawsuit, the city council, or city management, or the lawyers? How is the $65 million in damages determined?”

Gilkey said that Corcoran could drill several high performing wells for a fraction of the cost. Citing the mutually recognized fact that Curtimade Dairy’s wells have always been in compliance, Gilkey said, “I’m no lawyer but it does not seem winnable……only the attorneys will win.”

In fact, Anja Raudabaugh, CEO of Western United Dairies (WUD) said that the she discovered through a PRA request that the city’s legal bills were in excess of $1 million dollars. “Rising legal bills for out of town attorneys don’t yield access to safe and affordable drinking water to the residents of Corcoran. Nor do they help pay for new wells.”

Dr. Edward Henry, a veterinarian in Tulare, gave copies of the official state nitrate report to the city council. He noted that the report said that Corcoran’s nitrate levels were quite low and even lower than Tulare’s.

“Should this $65 million dollar lawsuit reach the courts and a judge looks at a simple summary like this, he is going to say where is the harm to the city?”

Henry requested that the council agendize an informational item for their next meeting to discuss this report. He also requested that the council agendize an action item to take a vote to drop the suit.

“I notice that an agenda item is scheduled during closed session. It would be really nice to have a report out of that session that we decided to drop this lawsuit.”

Alternatives to Litigation

Those speaking during public comment didn’t just suggest dropping the suit, but wanted the city to work with the ag industry to resolve its water issues instead of using litigation.

Michael Boyette, a Corcoran farmer, said that a Corcoran land owners’ group and the Corcoran Irrigation District (CID) came up with a feasible plan to rectify any issues with Corcoran’s wells at their own expense. He said that the city refused their offer. As a result he said that the Regional Water Control Board withdrew from the process because the city was negotiating in bad faith.

Tom Barcellos, Director of the Lower Tule Irrigation District, warned that whatever happens to the Curtis concerning the suit will have consequences for every ag business in the state. He suggested that Corcoran pursue other ways to secure more water such as working with his irrigation district and the CID, getting state money, or applying for grants.

Raudabaugh told the council, “I am here today to offer our organization’s full support in assisting the city with finding alternative solutions to the litigation at hand-which is guaranteed to solve nothing.”

She added that if the drilling of new wells is the problem, WUD can have a grant and an army of resources the city can choose from available by the next city council meeting.

“We invite you to join us as we seek to provide you solutions.”

All in the Family

In a moment of levity Dino Giacomazzi, a former dairy owner in Corcoran and Hanford, said that his elderly late grandmother drank Corcoran’s nitrate laced water her entire life and that “it took 105 years to kill her.”

Avila appealed to Corcoran’s better angels in light of the sudden loss of City Council Member Raymond Lerma. “We are your ally. We are not your enemy. The Curtis are your ally, not your enemy. We should be fighting together against the people…..that are taking our water and sending it out to the ocean.

“We can’t set a precedent. We have to support the Curtis. But we also have to support the city of Corcoran. You are just as important as the Curtis,” said Avila.

“We are family.”

7 thoughts on “Local Ag Warns Corcoran – Suit Against Curtimade Dairy Will Have Statewide Consequences

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  1. Oh man I wish I could’ve been at this meeting. I am actually neutral on the issues at hand, not having full information in hand, but how hilarious it would have been to see Mr. Avila and others speaking in rightwing authoritarian pseudo-science.

  2. Too bad that Farmer Avila felt the need to inject his right wing conspiracy theory of extreme environmentalists using the City of Corcoran in their plot to take water away from farmers. Farmers receive more than their fair share of water. I for one am tired of hearing that bogus crap. But I digress. Aside from the daily manure waste that comes from farm dairy animals i.e. cows, horses, chickens, and pigs, etc. you also have the daily manure waste from other potential contributors such as foxes, coyotes, prairie dogs, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, geese, feral cats, etc. And don’t forget about nearby Corcoran Prison and their waste from possible past leaks from their sewer lines. The Central Valley Water Board couldn’t put the entire blame on Curtimade. I doubt that the court will either. Sounds like Corcoran should be working with and not against Curtimade.

  3. “We should be fighting together against the people…..that are taking our water and sending it out to the ocean.”

    Meanwhile, it’s Ag whose diverting water back to the Delta and away from the Tulare Lake basin, because gawd forbid the largest freshwater lake (and natural reservoir) West of Lake Superior reclaims Boswell’s cotton farms ironically wasting away one acre of subsidence at a time.

    The greatest tragedy is that the ‘radical enviros’ are being blamed and not the multimillionaire developers chewing up acre after acre for more induced sprawl. And the sprawl doesn’t even pay for itself because developer fees are so dismally low, forcing the County to cover infrastructure costs and play into the giant Ponzi Scheme of “growth”.

  4. During flood flows, the Kings River should be allowed to fill Tulare Lake and recharge aquifers. Instead it is diverted north through the Fresno Slough, to the San Joaquin River and into the Delta. It is not the environmentalists that are asking for this. It is decreed by the big money farmers in the lake bottom that want to keep their crops dry.

  5. Barbara, please see your governors comments in an interview yesterday with PPIC, Gov. Newsom reiterated, “I care deeply about the folks in (the San Joaquin Valley),” he said. “It’s not just ‘big ag.” There are real human beings whose lives are being torn asunder because of the scarcity of water.” He also said: “When we talk about fallowing (farm) land, those are real people with real lives… You don’t destroy a community that was built over hundreds of years.” But in Barbara’s world, the scarcity of water is “Bogus Crap” as she puts it.

    And others believe everything is “big ag.” Sad, I live among people who take for granted where their food supply comes from. In reality, the the average farm in California is less than 380 acres. Far cry from “the big ag” so many loosely untilize to sensationalize their views. The Curtis are not big ag, they are exactly what is California Agriculture. The bogus crap is that I have elevated nitrates in my well water, and I live up in the foothills. Those nitrates sure in the hell did not come from dairies or farming operations on the valley floor.
     

    • The “bogus crap” I was referring to was Farmer Avila’s statement that environmentalists are plotting to take water away from farmers. But I’ll clarify my remarks just for you. Farmers don’t have any less water than other folks around these parts as we’ve all been living with droughts for many years now. Pick up any paper and if one isn’t experiencing living with less water they are living with bad drinking water. I also sided with the Curtimade against Corcoran and stated that Corcoran should be working with Curtimade NOT AGAINST THEM. Perhaps you should try reading something two or three times in order for each and every word to sink in. I may be right and I may be wrong….just like you.

      • Barbara- I personally would not qualify letting your lawn die in Tulare as sacrafice. What is sacrafice, is when growers and farmers have to abandon their livelihood and fallow up to thirty percent of their acres because of SGMA. These are the people who feed this world and people like you take that for granted. Would you be upset if your under achieving CALPERs pension was slashed because it has not met yearly goals, and now stands at $146 billion in the red? Yes you would! So just keep enjoying that fine Tulare municipality water coming from your faucet everytime you turn it on because many do not have that luxury, including those that farm.

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