GSA approves bylaws, appoints PAC members

By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Groundwater Sustainability Agency for the Indian Wells Valley approved Article 5 of its bylaws during its regular meeting, Thursday, May 18, at City Hall. The article, pertaining to the composition and function of Policy Advisory and Technical Advisory committees, was put on hold because of widespread concerns expressed by stakeholders.

Notable changes included removing the water resources manager as chair of the TAC in favor of letting the committee appoint its own chairperson in consultation with the WRM. The board also added to the PAC membership two seats for residential customers of a public water agency.

The GSA board also approved five new members of the PAC, following last month’s appointment of Meadowbrook and Mojave Pistachio as the committee’s two large agriculture representatives. The board appointed Steve Godard of Searles Valley Minerals to fill the wholesaler/industrial-user seat, Donna Thomas to the East Kern County Resource Conservation District’s seat and Brian Longbottom, Don Zdeba and Ryan Klausch, representing the GSA member agencies of the Navy, IWV Water District and Bureau of Land Management, respectively.

The board held off on appointing Carol Wilson of the Ridgecrest Area Association of Realtors to one of the two business-interests seats, pending review of more applications. The board set an application deadline of June 1 to fill the remaining seats for small agriculture, business interests, domestic well owners and residential customers.

GSA Chair 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason and Ridgecrest’s representative, Mayor Peggy Breeden, were assigned to the committee responsible for reviewing applications and making recommendations to the board. The mainstream seats are expected to be approved during the next GSA meeting, Thursday, June 15.

But concerns about “meaningful participation” in regard to the committees were again a primary topic of discussion.

Breeden pointed out that the way the bylaws are written, only the WRM could bring forward discussion items on the TAC agendas.

Throughout the process, when stakeholders have voiced concerns for more than a year that they had no clear voice or influence in the process, GSA members have continued to reassure members of the public that TAC and PAC would be where that participation would happen.

Breeden suggested placing agenda-building power solely in the hands of the resource manager could limit stakeholders’ ability to bring their concerns to light.

Phil Hall, Kern County attorney advising the GSA, said Breeden’s point was “too hypothetical” for much concern. He explained that the agenda items were merely reliant on whatever portion of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan the WRM happens to be crafting or reviewing.

“If there’s something that some member of the TAC wants him to look at and he’s refusing to, they can always bring that to the board.”

See next week’s edition for additional reporting.

Story First Published: 2017-05-19