The California Supreme Court has agreed to hear two new cases of interest to the planning and development community - the first dealing with water rights and the second dealing with administrative procedures before a Local Agency Formation Commission. In the water rights case, City of Barstow v. Mojave Water Agency (S0971728), the Supreme Court will determine whether a trial judge had the power to sweep aside all existing water-rights doctrines in allocation Mojave River Basin water to cities and farmers in the High Desert area of San Bernardino County. The litigation arose out of an overdraft situation in the fast-growing area. In his ruling, Superior Court Judge E. Michael Kaiser consolidated a series of conflicting water claims and sought to make an "equitable apportionment" of water rights to all water users in the basin. The net result of this ruling is likely to be that alfalfa farmers will be forced to sell some of their water to the cities, which are more able to pay a higher price for it, and therefore go out of business. Earlier this year, however, the Fourth District Court of Appeal overturned a portion of Kaiser's decision, ruling in favor of some of the alfalfa farmers. The Fourth District ruled that the judge had erroneously ignored the farmers' "overlying" water rights. However, the Fourth District stopped short of overturning the entire ruling. Rather, the court called upon all parties to stipulate to a new agreement that recognizes the farmers' water rights. "The trial court did not attempt to determine the priority of water rights, and merely allocated pumping rights based on prior production," the Fourth District wrote. "This approach elevates the rights of appropriators and those producing without any claim of right to the same status as the rights of riparians and overlying owners. The trial court erred in doing so." (CP&DR Legal Digest, July 1998.) In the LAFCO case, Sierra Club v. San Joaquin Local Agency Formation Commission (S072212), the Supreme Court will examine the question of whether environmentalists challenging the Gold Rush City project truly exhausted their administrative remedies at the LAFCO level before they filed suit. Gold Rush City is a large development project proposed on an island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. In 1996, the San Joaquin County LAFCO approved annexation of the Gold Rush City property to Lathrop and adopted a statement of overriding considerations in certifying the environmental impact report. After the LAFCO action, Eric Parfrey, an environmental consultant who has been critical of the Gold Rush City project, notified the LAFCO that requesting reconsideration and indicating that he would soon submit the required $700 fee. The following day he withdrew the request and then joined with the Sierra Club, the San Joaquin County Farm Bureau, and others in filing a lawsuit challenging the statement of overriding consideration. San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Bob McNatt dismissed the case, claiming that Parfrey and the other plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies because they did not follow through on their motion for reconsideration. The Third District Court of Appeal affirmed McNatt's ruling, relying on a rule first laid down in Alexander v. State Personnel Board, 22 Cal.2d 198 (1943) - even though, the court said, the rule is outmoded. (CP&DR Legal Digest, August 1998). It would seem likely that the Supreme Court is interested in revisiting the Alexander rule, which states that where a rehearing is permitted under law it is a necessary step in exhausting administrative remedies even if it would appear to be a futile step. Reconsideration of the Alexander ruling could have broader implications beyond land-use law.