J. Mark Atlas

J. Mark Atlas

Of Counsel

J. Mark Atlas

Of Counsel

Mark Atlas provides his clients the unique combination of more than 40 years of legal experience with the perspective of a long-time resident of a Sacramento Valley community that has a rich history of water resource stewardship.

Mark counsels rural and urban water, irrigation and other special districts, municipalities, mutual water companies and individual clients in a wide array of water and governance issues. He has intensive general counsel experience with local agencies providing advice on the Brown Act, Public Records Act, conflicts of interest, elections, personnel and construction matters, and resources issues such as NEPA, CEQA and the Endangered Species Act. His clients include public and private water rights holders, contractors with the Central Valley Project, and parties to proceedings before the California State Water Resources Control Board.

He is dedicated to protecting and expanding the rights of public and private clients to prudent water use. He has appeared before federal and state legislative committees on matters affecting federal Reclamation law, the Central Valley Project and state water rights issues. He is a charter member of the Advisory Committee of the Family Farm Alliance, a nonprofit grassroots organization composed of family farmers and those in related industries committed to preserving the tradition of irrigated agriculture throughout the West.

Mark also counsels clients in a range of business and personal estate planning matters, probate and trust administration, farm leases and oil and gas leasing.

Experience

  • Assisted in the formation of the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority—one of only three joint powers authorities that operates major features of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project, and has served as General Counsel to the Authority since its inception. In that capacity he helped guide the Authority in the design and construction of the $200 million Red Bluff Fish Passage Improvement Project to resolve a major impediment to fish migration on the Sacramento River. This project has such significant merit for both fish and water users that it received more funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act than any other Department of the Interior project in the United States.
  • Advises several Sacramento Valley water agencies on participation as members of the board of directors or funding participants in the Sites Project Authority, planning for the construction of the Sites Reservoir.
  • Serves as general counsel to the Northstar Community Services District, and advises its board of directors in the complex issues of managing surface and groundwater resources that provide supplies for municipal use and ski resort snowmaking. He has advised the district on the issuance of over $100 million in Mello-Roos bonds to fund water, sewer, road and fire department improvements to serve an estimated $400 million in new construction in the community. When the economic downturn caused defaults of some parcels on the bond special taxes, he oversaw complex foreclosures and workouts. More broadly, he has counseled the district in updating its policies and procedures, as it has adapted to a doubling of its customer base, expanded its array of public services, and prepared for the next phase of development of residential, commercial and recreational properties in the area.
  • Advised two irrigation district clients on the construction of a state-of-the-art fish screen and pumping plant on the Sacramento River as part of an overall effort in California to improve the river habitat of migrating fish species. The districts received about 90% of the project funding in grants from a combination of state and federal agencies.
  • Advises clients on matters involving U.S. Bureau of Reclamation water contracts, water allocation and shortage policies, and compliance with federal Reclamation law; and in proceedings before the California State Water Resources Control Board.
  • Negotiated the first substantive interim renewal water service contracts after adoption of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act for a group of CVP contractors, and then advised those contractors again in the negotiation of long-term renewals of their water contracts.
  • Represented public and private contractors in the first renewals of Sacramento River water rights settlement contracts since 1964.
  • Advises and assists in formation of public and private water agencies such as water districts, community services districts and mutual water companies, including Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) procedures, and counsels those agencies on their policies and operations.
  • Advises several local agency clients in the implementation of the 2015 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, including the formation of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies, evaluation of basin boundary issues and preparation of joint powers agreements for sustainability planning.
  • Assisted with the creation of a community services district to provide water, wastewater, roads, transit, library and other public services to a unique, mixed use development on a former U.S. Army base.
  • Advises public agency and private clients on water supply, conservation and drought policies, water transfers, and water supply assessments (SB 610 and SB 221).
  • Advises private clients on estate planning, oil and gas leasing and business entities.

Professional, Community And Pro Bono Involvement

  • Member, Association of California Water Agencies, Legal Affairs Committee
  • Member, Family Farm Alliance, Advisory Committee
  • Member, Glenn County Bar Association
  • Member, American Bar Association
  • Member, Glenn County Farm Bureau
  • US Army Reserve, Captain, 1972-1980

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