Authority approves Prop 1 grant application

Authority  approves  Prop 1  grant  applicationBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority has authorized Stetson Engineers to move forward with its grant application in an attempt to secure up to $2.5 million from the state for groundwater sustainability efforts. The discussion and conditional approval took up most of the IWVGA’s relatively brief October meeting last week.

California Proposition 1 has made two different categories of funds for overdrafted groundwater basins. Category 1, which allows up to $1 million in funding, is for disadvantaged communities while Category 2, up to $1.5 million, is for all medium- and high-priority basins in critical overdraft.

According to Stetson Engineers President Steve Johnson, the firm received more than 100 comments from the community and has since factored some of them into the application and is working on responses for the rest.

Stetson Engineers was the firm appointed as the IWVGA’s Water Resources Manager last month. The WRM’s chief responsibility is developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the IWV basin by the summer of 2020.

The board unanimously approved the application in theory, but has requested to be notified if there are any major changes between now and the Nov. 13 submittal date. But there are still some concerns of submitting the application prior to learning more about the basin. A lack of studies have left “data gaps” in local water availability.

Member of the public Judie Decker suggested the application be held as the basin is waiting for the results of a United States Geological Survey recharge study.

“Recharge is a critical part of the picture,” said Decker. “Personally, I think you need that information before you submit the application. We need that information to make intelligent decisions.”

IWV Water District representative Peter Brown also mentioned the geophysical survey expected next month using SkyTEM’s aerial mapping technology.

“I believe we need to have as much information as possible as a board so that when the actual GSP document is developed, we know all of the different options available to us – and what the costs of those options would be,” said Page. “We need to make the most informed decision about how to get the most out of the money that belongs to the people in this community.” He added that a recycled water study should be considered in addition to water importation.

Another concern from Page was how much authority the WRM has over the final application.

“I’m not intending to make any unilateral decisions on this,” said Johnson. “I’m not going to make any personal judgements that you folks don’t know about.”

IWVGA Chair, Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason, clarified that he was “comfortable in Stetson doing their job,” but would require that boardmembers be notified of any changes before the final submittal. “We can make adjustments as necessary as we go.”

The board’s Policy Advisory and Technical Advisory Committees will have another opportunity to comment on the application during their Nov. 2 meeting. The IWVGA is also prepared to hold a public meeting to formally approve any major changes, but prefers to avoid the administrative costs associated with holding special meetings.

Johnson also added that there are also opportunities to make changes after the application has already been submitted.

The application also requests a matching funds waiver given our disadvantaged community status.

“Our goal in this application is to try and get as much money as we can and try and reduce the local matching as much as we possibly can,” said Johnson. “We don’t want to leave any money on the table.”

For updates on future meetings, see future editions of the News Review.

Pictured: IWVGA representative from San Bernardino County Bob Page during last week’s meeting. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-10-27