Scott A. Morris, Shareholder
Mr. Morris focuses on natural resources, land use, and water law in his practice, representing both public and private clients. He often works closely with the firm’s public agency attorneys, advising and representing clients in areas that align with his areas of emphasis, which include water rights, water transfers, groundwater law including the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), environmental law, hazardous materials, mining and development permits. Prior to entering the legal profession, Mr. Morris worked as a civil engineer for 12 years-experience that he frequently finds invaluable in providing services to clients.
Licensed to practice since 1994, Mr. Morris advises his clients on a variety of legal matters that pertain to natural resources, water law, land use, and environmental law. His clients include water districts, aggregate mining producers, municipalities and other public agencies. Specific areas of experience include:
- Protecting water rights
- Handling and negotiating water transfers
- Mediation of Water Rights Disputes
- Obtaining a variety of regulatory permits from state and local agencies, including:
- State Water Rights Permits
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sections 404 and 10 Permits
- Reclamation Board Encroachment Permits
- County Use Permits
- State Waste Discharge Requirements or Waivers
- Department of Fish and Game Streambed Alteration Agreements
- Complying with state and federal regulations including:
- Clean Water Act
- California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
- National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA)
- Endangered Species Act (ESA)
- Counseling aggregate and mining clients on several legal fronts including:
- Compliance with the State Surface Mining and Reclamation Act
- Federal general mining law
- Obtaining use permits and zoning changes
- Developing reclamation plans
- Handling leases and mine sites on private, public and trust lands
- Advising clients on matters related to handling of toxic and hazardous materials:
- Regulatory requirements under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Comprehensive Environmental Response and Compensation Act (CERCLA), and state law
- Underground storage tanks
- Clean-up of hazardous sites
Mr. Morris currently serves as general counsel for Placer County Water Agency (PCWA), The Middle Fork Project Finance Authority (JPA with PCWA and Placer County), Ramirez Water District and Reclamation District 2035 where he provides general legal advice, informs the districts of state and federal regulations impacting them, and handles water rights and water transfer matters on the districts’ behalf. Mr. Morris also serves as general counsel for Kirkwood Meadows Association (a homeowners association) where he advises the board in matters relating to the Davis-Stirling Act and other homeowners association issues.
Mr. Morris also has a growing body of experience in litigation matters revolving around environmental law and water supply issues. He has defended public agencies in CEQA, NEPA and ESA challenges of development projects based on claims of inadequate water supplies, defended public agencies in citizens’ lawsuits involving the Clean Water Act, and filed cases on behalf of both private and public clients regarding these same matters. In addition, Mr. Morris has represented clients before a variety of public agencies, prepared and analyzed engineering flood studies, and written CEQA, NEPA and ESA documents for his clients.
Prior to entering the law field, Mr. Morris was employed as a project engineer by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where he was in charge of evaluating the conditions of the 1,000 miles of Sacramento River Flood Control Project levees, and repairing levees damaged after severe floods. He has also served as a consulting civil engineer to a variety of groups including:
- Reclamation, flood control and irrigation districts
- Water companies
- Large and small agricultural businesses
- The aggregate industry
- Land development firms
- Federal, state and local agencies
Examples of legal matters Mr. Morris has handled on behalf of clients include:
- Successfully completed negotiation of a water transfer deal estimated to be worth $100 million that involved the transfer of the lower Kern River water rights from the Nickel Family, LLC to the Kern County Water Agency.
- Mr. Morris served as mediator for the Shasta County Superior Court in the matter of Mazzini v. Erwin, et al. (Shasta County case no. 147961). In that case Mr. Morris developed a physical solution to a water rights dispute that was ultimately adopted by the Court.
- Successful defense of PCWA in numerous lawsuits including challenges by the Natural Resources Defense Counsel, ratepayer challenges and construction matters.
- As part of a team of attorneys, Mr. Morris was involved in the successful defense of the Marin County Community Services District against taxpayer and environmental challenges over the creation of an assessment district to sell bonds for water improvements for the waterfront community.
- Involved in the successful defense of the City of Crescent City in a takeover attempt of their water supply system by Del Norte County.
- Gained approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for more than 150 private boat docks for a residential development in the Stockton area.
- Successfully managed all permit processing and the Environmental Impact Report for a 95-berth marina expansion project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
- As a consultant to the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, Mr. Morris conducted studies of the American River and participated in the Lower American River Task Force.
Professional Activities & Affiliations
Mr. Morris maintains active participation in several associations and has presented on a number of topics including the Brown Act and boundary laws. His professional activities and affiliations include:
- Top Lawyer, Sacramento Magazine, 2016
- Northern California Super Lawyer (2012, 2013)
- Member, Legal Affairs Committee, Association of California Water Agencies
- Board Member/Vice President, Water Education Foundation
- Chairman of the Board and Treasurer, Kronick Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard
- Member, American Society of Civil Engineers
- Member, California Farm Bureau
- Member, Sacramento County Bar Association
- Member, California State Bar Association
- Instructor and presenter for MCLE course on boundary law
- Co-Chair of LSI Groundwater Sustainability in California Conference (3 annual conferences to date)
- Registered Civil Engineer, State of California
- Graduate of Water Education Foundation’s Water Leaders Program, 1998
J.D. University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, 1994
M.E. Virginia Polytechnic Institute, 1982
B.A. University of Virginia, 1981