Little movement from GA committees

Groundwater management advisory groups continue to battle procedural obstacles

Little movement from GA committeesBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

After meeting regularly for months, members of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s advisory committees continue to express confusion and frustration as to what exactly they’re supposed to be doing.

“I think it needs to be spelled out more clearly for the PAC [Policy Advisory Committee] and TAB [Technical Advisory Committee] what their relationship to various tasks is,” said Don Decker during the Nov. 2 TAC meeting. Decker is a TAC representative for domestic well owners.

The IWVGA and its committees were formed following California’s Sustainable Groundwater Manage-ment Act. With groundwater basins in decline across the state, basins such as ours were required to form groundwater sustainability agencies to come up with groundwater sustainability plans.

These GSPs are supposed to be in place by 2020, and the state is requiring overdrafted basins to halt or reverse declining groundwater levels. The IWVGA hired Stetson Engineering as our Water Resources Manager, the firm in charge of working with the committees and the authority to draft a GSP.

“I realize that Stetson has been given a responsibility to carry forward with the technical advisory role and creation of various documents, but the TAC was also put in place to supply technical support also. We’re not just here to read documents and talk,” said Decker.

Member of the public Judie Decker, a former IWV Water District director and long-time participant in water issues, also criticized the authority for “getting carried away” when it established the rules for its advisory committees. During the TAC meeting, Judie questioned why the rules for a volunteer advisory committee were so much more stringent than an actual governing board like the IWVGA.

She asked why the authority requires the committees to have a two-thirds majority to approve its recommendations to the board, which needs only a majority vote on such matters.

“Why are the rules so stringent? I think that’s a fair question to ask,” said Judie. “You are supposed to be working on technical issues. You’re not supposed to have to bow before the king and get your requests granted. You’re simply meeting and discussing and you’re going to give advice.”

For several meetings committee members have expressed frustration with how the authority has controlled agenda content and what the committees are at liberty to discuss.

“We’re having our hands tied. If we’re even being told how to breathe, this committee has no purpose,” said Carol Wilson as the PAC reviewed pages of meeting procedures during its meeting later that day. Wilson represents business interests as a PAC member. “I don’t even understand why we’re here. Either we should have our hands untied, or we should disband.”

PAC Chair Donna Thomas reported that while she prompted the authority to give the committee specific direction, there has still been no response. Committeemember Scott O’Neil suggested the committee just stop meeting until the board gives them substantial work.

“I want to encourage you all to stay as a group and keep meeting, even if you’re going up against a wall,” said Josh Nugent of Nugent Farms, speaking as a member of the public. “The PAC is really supposed to be the people’s voice in this process.”

The committees will report to the IWVGA during its regular meeting on Thursday, Nov. 16, 10 a.m. at City Hall. See www.kerncounty.com/WaterResources.aspx.

Pictured: Member of the public Judie Decker during a recent Technical Advisory Committee meeting. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-11-10