Pueblo water rights

by Joseph Richardson

The city of Ventura acquired the water rights to the Ventura River by virtue of an unbroken chain purchases and agreements extending from the original 12 ranchos water rights established by the catholic church at the Mission san Buenaventura.

In the long ago past a project was started by the city mayor to see if Ventura water rights qualified as “pueblo rights” as defined by law. The city of San Gabriel had successfully established these rights for their city. Such rights predate and over come ALL other claims to the water …. Period. San Fernando and Los Angeles would also make such an establishment as adjudication processes.

The result of the attempt was that the records searched in Mexico City did not fully identify the names of all the individuals involved with the Presideo and the landowners with property adjacent to the river. A request was made to go to Spain and search the records there to fully document the claim but the $5000 cost was found to be too much and the project not necessary. The City was recognized to have rights predating the current laws on water rights in the river.

According to records now available online there is a good case to be made that both the past study if it had been completed would have established the Cities rights but even so the question of whether a “presidio” existed with authority over the San Buenaventura mission is and now been documented as fact.

El Presidio Real de Santa Barbara (Second Military District) was tasked with protection of the following missions

San Fernando, San Buenaventura, Santa Barbara, Santa Ines, and La Purisma aong with

El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora LaReana de Los Angeles de Reda Porciuncular

Why do I continue to bring this up? …. In 1988 while being the Production supervisor for the City of Ventura Water Dept. I located, read, shared, and transferred to the City clerk all the original records of the Rancho designations by the Mission San Buenaventura, along with the documentation that existed about the attempt by the mayor to establish the pueblo rights for the city. Those original hand written documents defining the property lines, allowed crops, livestock, and water rights were in a file cabinet in the attic of the old water dept control and office building which was to be taken down during the rebuilding of the City Corp Yard.

All the records associated with the deed transfers and water rights were included. All these records were delivered to the City clerk for proper storage and keeping, though I understand that some of those records (the file cabinet itself with all its contents) went to the city engineering office.

The other most important papers in that file were all the records of the construction of the diversion dam at Foster Park and the original agreements between the city and county about the water production facilities in the riverbed at Foster Park.

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