Mayor begs ‘flexibility’ on IWVGA matters

Mayor begs ‘flexibility’ on IWVGA mattersBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

During last week’s Ridgecrest City Council meeting, Mayor Peggy Breeden asked staff and council to find a way to “recognize the flexibility in the process” of Breeden representing the city on the board of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority.

The topic pertains to a recent debate on whether or not IWVGA members should be directed by their agencies – Ridgecrest, the IWV Water District and the counties of Kern, Inyo and San Bernardino – on how to vote on important issues.

Breeden said she would always vote the council’s recommendation when it came to policy or liability issues. But she asked for more leeway when it comes to other topics, specifically if she hears new information at a meeting that council may not have been aware of.

“I think you have to recognize that I am not a rogue mayor nor a rogue councilmember,” said Breeden. “I’m not going to sell off the city or the water.”

It has long been discussed since the notion of a Groundwater Sustainability Agency began brewing three years ago that board members should receive consensus from their agencies before voting. Alternatively, members of the public have argued that the groundwater authority should be an elected board, rather than appointees from preexisting elected bodies.

“From my understanding, the agreement was that [each IWVGA boardmember] would just be a representative for their respective body,” said Councilmember Lindsey Stephens in a later interview.

“Representatives aren’t supposed to be making the decisions on their own. If it were going to work that way, I think it would need to be a separate elected official.

“It kind of concerns me that they are trying to change it right now,” she continued. “I think they were frustrated with how much input they received from us while drafting the bylaws.”

It took months of public discussion before last spring when the IWVGA approved its bylaws, much of which were dominated by locals calling for more stakeholder input and less county control.

Acting City Manger Ron Strand said that the topic would remain on council agendas as a discussion item to give council and the public the opportunity to discuss IWVGA matters during each council meeting.

The IWVGA has been meeting in closed session to find a water resources manager, who will take the lead in developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the valley.

The position also serves to facilitate communication between the Groundwater Authority Board and the board’s Policy and Technical Advisory committees.

The next public meeting of the Groundwater Authority will be on Thursday, Aug. 17, at 10 a.m. at Ridgecrest City Hall.

Meeting agendas and more information are available at www.kerncounty.com/WaterResources.aspx.

Pictured: Mayor Peggy Breeden defends the autonomy of her vote on the Groundwater Authority during the Aug. 2 meeting of the Ridgecrest City Council. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-08-11