City of San Juan Capistrano, Blenheim Facility Management, LLC, and OC Coastkeeper Agree to Settle Litigation;
Improvements to Riding Park and Creek Will Enhance Water Quality While Helping to Preserve San Juan Capistrano’s Equestrian Heritage
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. September 7, 2018 – The City of San Juan Capistrano (City), Blenheim Facility Management, LLC (Blenheim), and Orange County Coastkeeper (Coastkeeper) announced today the settlement of litigation brought by Coastkeeper against the City and Blenheim, which manages and operates the equestrian Riding Park under contract with the City. The parties have agreed to resolve the litigation through a collaborative settlement to avoid cost and uncertainties of further litigation.
Coastkeeper’s lawsuit contends that:
- storm water and non-storm water were being illegally discharged into San Juan Creek without a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit
- the City reconstructed the Arizona Crossing without the required permits after it was damaged by storms in 2010, and allowed unpermitted materials to remain in the creek
- defendants engaged in fill activity along the Riding Park creek bank without the proper permits that ensure water quality protection and that resulted in unauthorized discharges to the Creek
Although the defendants (City and Blenheim) deny all allegations and claims contained within the lawsuit, the settlement resolves all outstanding allegations and allows the parties to move forward together with the implementation of capital improvements and water quality best management practices at the Riding Park and San Juan Creek.
The final agreement includes the following key points:
- The City/Blenheim will obtain all required water quality permits and develop plans for improvements at the Riding Park.
- The City/Blenheim will implement an employee training program for all staff and Riding Park operators to focus on compliance with all applicable water quality laws.
- Clean water best management practices will be implemented as appropriate and applicable.
- The San Juan Creek bank adjacent to the Riding Park will be restored and stabilized.
- The unpermitted Arizona Crossing materials will be removed from the creek in compliance with all applicable water quality laws.
- Coastkeeper will provide the City with notice of any potential lawsuit 30 days before issuing a Notice of Intent to Sue letter to any other equestrian facility in San Juan Capistrano and participate in meetings with the City and facility to resolve the issue prior to the Notice of Intent.
- The City will fund $1 million in projects through the California State Parks Foundation that will benefit the San Juan Creek watershed.
- The City will pay Coastkeeper $1.9 million for its expert/attorney’s fees and costs related to the lawsuit and future monitoring expenses.
Coastkeeper has served copies of the proposed consent decree to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Pacific Southwest region and U.S. attorney general for a mandatory 45-day review period to ensure consistency with federal environmental law.
Media should treat this joint statement and release of information as all that will be made available for follow up queries and in lieu of interviews.
Statement from City of San Juan Capistrano:
“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.”
Statement from Orange County Coastkeeper:
“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.”
Statement from Blenheim Facility Management, LLC:
“We are looking forward to focusing on the future of San Juan Capistrano’s award-winning Riding Park,” stated Blenheim Vice President of Operations and Marketing Melissa Brandes. “We value our partnership with the City and understand the important role we play as the steward of this critical public asset. We are fully committed to working collaboratively with Coastkeeper and the regulatory agencies to ensure the Riding Park remains a source of pride and enjoyment for the entire community.”