Somach Simmons and Dunn, Attorneys at Law Somach Simmons & Dunn | Attorneys at Law

Areas

Education

  • University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law (J.D., 2010)
  • California State University, Sacramento (M.P.P.A., 2001)
  • University of California, Santa Barbara (B.A., 1995)

Admissions

  • California

Spotlight

Read the full transcript from Aaron’s September 2020 virtual presentation for GRA’s Third Annual Western Groundwater Congress. “SGMA is complicated, groundwater adjudications can be complicated, but we’ve identified four key issues to focus on when determining whether the SGMA process has run its course and it is time to adjudicate.”

Aaron A. Ferguson
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LinkedIn Bio

Aaron Ferguson’s expertise in water law is the result of a unique combination of working on high-profile, complex water law issues coupled with previous careers as a water supply analyst and a regulatory affairs specialist. He is able to provide a well-rounded vision on the water issues that face his clients.

Aaron helps clients understand and protect their water rights, maximize the value of their water supplies, and achieve their water supply planning objectives. He regularly advises landowners and public agencies with respect to the existence and scope of their water rights and memorializes his findings in water right opinions. Currently, he is protecting the surface water and groundwater rights of his clients in administrative and state court proceedings related to the proposed California WaterFix project. He is also helping a client navigate the regulatory process required to add a point of diversion, place of use and purpose of use to two water rights.

Aaron combines his knowledge of water law with his experience in water supply planning to assist clients in the development of water supply plans such as Urban Water Management Plans and SB 610 Water Supply Assessments. He looks forward to applying these skills helping clients develop and implement Groundwater Sustainability Plans under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). He also provides public agencies advice on Proposition 218 compliance for imposition of water rates. He recently advised a client in the development and adoption of a groundwater management fee pursuant to SGMA.

Aaron applies his expertise in water rights law to deliver market-based solutions to complex water resources challenges facing his clients, including negotiating and drafting facility capacity agreements and surface water and groundwater transfer agreements. He also assists clients in developing creative solutions to regulations proposed by administrative agencies, including his current work crafting alternatives to the California State Water Resources Control Board’s (State Water Board) flow-based approach to maintaining and improving water quality in the Bay-Delta watershed. He challenges administrative agency decisions by requesting reconsideration of their determinations and litigates agency decisions in court. His current work includes litigation contesting the constitutionality of the California State Water Board’s imposition of a fee to fund a regulatory program.

Outside of his law practice, Aaron enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, and skiing.

Representative Matters

Water Resources

Serve as special counsel to the County of Sacramento and Sacramento County Water Agency (SCWA), City of San Diego, and Carmichael Water District on water rights and resources matters.

Advised municipal and irrigation district clients and negotiated Central Valley Project repayment contracts pursuant to the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.

Successfully defended attempt to substitute parties, including SSD client, in federal court litigation in the Eastern District.

Advise San Luis Obispo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District on water rights matters related to petitions for changes to the appropriative rights supporting its Nacimiento River water supply.

Counsel clients regarding transfers of appropriative, contract, and remediated water rights and supplies, including preparation of purchase and sale agreements and related regulatory matters.

Litigation/Administrative Proceedings

Managed Sacramento County and SCWA’s protests of the California WaterFix Project’s petitions for changes before the State Water Board, including preparation, presentation, and defense of expert witnesses and cross-examination of opposing party witnesses.

Managed Sacramento County and SCWA’s petitions for change through a quasi-adjudicative hearing before the State Water Board’s Administrative Hearings Office, including preparation, presentation, and defense of expert witnesses and cross-examination of opposing party witness.

Manage the City of San Diego and San Diego County Water Authority’s Proposition 26 litigation challenging the constitutionality of the State Water Board’s water quality certification fee.

Local Government

Serve as general counsel to Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District, Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, and Grassland Basin Authority.

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

Advised municipal and irrigation district clients and negotiated agreements forming Groundwater Sustainability Agencies pursuant to the SGMA.

Advise Groundwater Sustainability Agencies in the preparation of Groundwater Sustainability Plans.

Successfully developed and implemented strategies for the Adoption of Proposition 218 compliant water rates for irrigation districts and a joint powers authority fee for SGMA planning costs.

Land Use

Counsel clients in the preparation of Water Code section 10910 Water Supply Assessments and Urban Water Management Plans.

Insights and Activities

  • Co-Presenter, “SGMA Isn’t Working – When It’s Time to Adjudicate. Wait, When is it Time?” Third Annual Western Groundwater Congress, Groundwater Resources Association of California, Virtual Event, Sept. 2020 [READ FULL TRANSCRIPT]
  • Panelist, “Sustainable Groundwater Pumping:  Long-term Agricultural Sustainability,” American Ground Water Trust Annual Colorado Groundwater Conference, Denver, CO, Nov. 2019
  • Panelist, “Western Water Infrastructure,” (Delta Tunnels and WaterFix Update) CLE International 23rd Annual Western Water Law Conference, Las Vegas, NV, Feb. 2018
  • Member, Groundwater Resources Association of California
  • Affiliate, Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA)
  • Affiliate, Northern California Water Association (NCWA)

Recent Articles

Lawsuit Will Test Application of Requirement That a County Consider Public Trust Resources in Permitting Groundwater Extraction

Last month, California Coastkeeper Alliance (Coastkeeper) filed suit seeking to enjoin Sonoma County from issuing groundwater well permits until it adopts a program to consider and protect public trust resources ... Read More

Court of Appeal Holds that a City’s Surcharge for Utility Services to Cover Voter Approved General Tax on Revenues from Customer Fees and Charges Did Not Violate Proposition 218

The Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District recently ruled in Wyatt v. City of Sacramento that a City’s imposition of a surcharge in the form of a “general ... Read More

Key Natural Resource and Environmental Elements to Know About H.R. 133: Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021

President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (“Appropriations Act” or “Act”) on December 27, 2020.  The Appropriations Act is a true omnibus.  It covers an array of topics, including ... Read More

[Transcript] Jacobs & Ferguson on SGMA and Groundwater Adjudication at Western Groundwater Congress

SGMA Isn’t Working — When It’s Time to Adjudicate. Wait, When is it Time? Western Groundwater Congress, Virtual Conference Session Transcript Presented September 16, 2020, by Nick Jacobs & Aaron ... Read More

Education

  • University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law (J.D., 2010)
  • California State University, Sacramento (M.P.P.A., 2001)
  • University of California, Santa Barbara (B.A., 1995)

Admissions

  • California

Spotlight

Read the full transcript from Aaron’s September 2020 virtual presentation for GRA’s Third Annual Western Groundwater Congress. “SGMA is complicated, groundwater adjudications can be complicated, but we’ve identified four key issues to focus on when determining whether the SGMA process has run its course and it is time to adjudicate.”