PALMDALE — The owners of Joshua Memorial Park may petition to join the 2015 court settlement that laid out limitations for groundwater pumping across the Antelope Valley, in the hopes of being allowed to install a new well to deliver water to the parched cemetery in Lancaster.
With the 2015 judgment, the groundwater beneath the Antelope Valley became part of an adjudicated basin, which sets the amount of groundwater all entities may pump annually, in order to prevent overdraft of the underlying aquifer.
The requirements apply to all users, from large public providers such as Los Angeles County Waterworks to individuals with small, domestic-use wells.
By becoming a party to the judgment, Service Corporation International, the company operating Joshua Memorial Park, seeks a right to pump a specified amount of groundwater, and could apply to drill a well to replace one that has gone dry, leaving the cemetery with dead lawns and dying trees.
The company appealed to the Antelope Valley Watermaster, the board tasked with overseeing the court settlement, for an agreement to ask the court to join the judgment.
The company will still have to prove their claim they have a right to join, Craig Parton, attorney for the Antelope Valley Watermaster, said.
“That will allow any party to file objections, if anyone has any additional concerns it will be raised at that time, but it will be in the court’s bailiwick at that point,” he said.
As part of joining the adjudication, the company is seeking to be allowed to pump 122 acre-feet of groundwater annually. An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, or approximately the amount of water a typical Antelope Valley household used in one year, before the most recent drought-reduced usage.
It is not known why the property was not party to the judgment already as it had a well and was pumping groundwater, but there is no record of it being listed with any of the various parties.
“They didn’t check any of the boxes,” Parton said. “At this point, I’m confident that, for whatever reason, they are not part of the judgment.”
The judgment allows for limited participation by these types of non-listed parties to join, if the court approves.
Although unanimously approved, some Watermaster Board members questioned about a party joining the process at this late date, after others spent years in arriving at the settlement, and have been paying the administrative costs.
“All the people that signed up, that have been in the fight for a long, long time, been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they’re coming along saying that they never got served, and they’re going to benefit from the structure that everybody else has paid for,” said Dennis Atkinson, who represents landowners on the Board.
Families with loved ones buried at Joshua Memorial have complained for months about the condition of the park, with its once-lush carpet of green turned to yellow and patches of dirt and weeds. Water trucks have been used to water some, but the mature trees at the 60-year-old park appear dead or dying.
Last month, Service Corporation International, the parent company of Joshua operator Dignity Memorial, told the Antelope Valley Press the company the property’s former well ran dry last year.
“We are temporarily watering the grounds by means of a water truck and are fully committed to restoring the park to its healthy and green state. We will replant trees and vegetation as soon as the new water source is operational,” Kristen Bennett, a spokesperson for Dignity Memorial said via email.
Valley Press Staff Writer Julie Drake contributed to this report.