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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton works with Fallbrook Public Utility District to develop and build Conjunctive Use Project

August 28, 2020

This report originally publishes at marines.mil.

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton has long worked to foster positive relations with neighboring communities. Over the years, there has been some dispute over water rights in the area, specifically with the Santa Margarita River. Being the only freshwater resource in the area, the river is highly valuable to the installation and to the Fallbrook community.

In an effort to keep these positive relations, and to maximize efficiency in collecting this limited natural resource, the Conjunctive Use Project allows Camp Pendleton and the neighboring Fallbrook community to collect this water in a mutually beneficial way.

“The Conjunctive Use Project has taken many forms, originating from the base and Fallbrook Public Utility District disputing their respective water rights to the Santa Margarita River,” said Paul Boughman, attorney, Associate Counsel, Western Area Counsel Office, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. “There is not enough water to fully support both populations. Taking 70 years to reach the CUP agreement, the litigation became the longest-running water rights dispute in California.”

Through the diligent work by Camp Pendleton and the neighboring Fallbrook Public Utilities District, an agreement was reached. This CUP lays a path for both parties to have access to clean water without the need to rely solely on import.

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“This project resolves 50+ years of water rights litigation between Camp Pendleton and Fallbrook Public Utility District by creating a long-term partnership to share and maximize local water resources in the Santa Margarita River,” said Jacke Bebee, General Manager, Fallbrook Public Utility District. “This project helps ensure a long-term reliability supply for Camp Pendleton and at the same time provides a new lower cost water supply for the community of Fallbrook.”

Initially filed in 1951, the CUP has required decades of work to complete. These years have included carefully detailing infrastructure requirements for both parties, to keep the responsibilities of each organized and fair.

“Camp Pendleton already has their facilities ready to go and construction is almost 50% complete for the facilities in Fallbrook,” said Bebee. “We plan to have the facility on-line producing water for Fallbrook by early 2022 and it will on average provide roughly 50% of our water.”

“What we do today matters tomorrow, so we had to be certain that the project would continue well into the future. The level of cooperation between the parties has never been better with partners working together.” Paul Boughman, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton Associate Counsel attorney

For the future, once each party has completed all the necessary infrastructure adaptions, the Fallbrook Public Utility District will no longer rely solely on imported water resources from the surrounding regions.

“What we do today matters tomorrow, so we had to be certain that the project would continue well into the future,” said Boughman. “The level of cooperation between the parties has never been better with partners working together.”

“The District staff is looking forward to being part of a project that will help support both the community of Fallbrook and Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base,” said Bebee.

The Santa Margarita River typically experiences long dry spells throughout most of the year, only interrupted by short wet periods caused by limited rainfall in the Southern Californian environment.

With the weather conditions in mind, the CUP agreement maximizes the total collection of surface and groundwater.

“Through the CUP, Camp Pendleton gained access to off base water resources during times of emergency, a mission-critical piece,” said Boughman. “Improving infrastructure maximized the ability to collect water from the Santa Margarita River while settling disputes between the Fallbrook Public Utility District and Camp Pendleton.”

Extensive environmental research has gone into the creation of the CUP agreement. Through this research, Camp Pendleton ensures that any risk to the base posed by infrastructure construction can be mitigated. By taking the necessary precautions, safety is enhanced for the environment and the communities benefiting from the project.

“Maximizing the yield of water while being cost-effective and meeting environmental needs makes engineering and operational flexibility a must to allow sustainable water usage for the future, creating a cost-effective, sustainable platform to draw critical resource water into the future,” said Boughman.

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton has been part of the Southern Californian landscape since its establishment in 1942. During this long history, the installation has worked to foster positive community relationships with neighboring cities. Through long-running projects such as the CUP, Camp Pendleton can stay mission ready while supporting nearby residents.

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