‘Controlling the costs’ of groundwater management

‘Controlling the costs’ of groundwater managementBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

As we settle into the new year, city officials will be settling into their management positions in the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority. The IWVGA is the local Groundwater Authority agency as established by state mandates, and the city of Ridgecrest will be taking the reins from Kern County as the lead agency for the next year. City Manager Ron Strand will act as general manager, with Mayor Peggy Breeden as chair.

“Last year they spent a good portion establishing the policy and procedures,” said Strand, who took over for Dennis Speer as city manager last year. “I would assume this year is going to be the year they’re going to work on the Groundwater Sustainability Plan itself.”

The multi-agency board elected to have a rotating lead agency among the “big three,” the third agency being the Indian Wells Valley Water District. Other agencies include San Bernardino and Inyo counties as voting members and Bureau of Land Management and Navy as advisory members.

While formulating a GSP is the agency’s main objective, “the larger decisions this year are going to be in regard to funding,” said Strand.

While the GSA is pursuing as much as $2.5 million in state grants, agencies are still anxiously awaiting a response to their grant application. The application was submitted late last year by Stetson Engineering, the firm hired as water resources manager for the board.

The GSA is racking up bills of roughly $50,000 per month from Stetson alone, and the budget outlines roughly $1.7 million in GSP tasks for the coming year. But, Strand added, the budget still isn’t “written in stone,” and can be amended as needed.

“We’ve basically got a loan from the water district to the tune of $500,000,” he said. “But the board is going to have to find other funding streams.”

Strand described one of the general manager’s responsibilities as “controlling the costs,” but added that “At the end of the day, what the community is going to want is a thorough Groundwater Sustainability Plan.

“We want Stetson working with the committees, we want public involvement, we want something comprehensive.

“If it benefits to have someone from Stetson at a Technical Advisory Committee meeting in person instead of over the phone, then by all means that’s what we’re going to do.”

But Strand had more to share than just cost concerns. He said we can look forward to new information that will spur GSP development. At press time, the GSA was hearing a presentation on an ongoing United States Geological Survey recharge study.

Our groundwater basin’s recharge rate ranges from an estimated 7,000 to 11,000 acre-feet per year, according to past studies.

While our basin has ample water in storage, valley pumpers are currently using roughly 26,000 acre-feet annually.

Officials hope the study will result in a clearer knowledge of the recharge rate.

The GSA is also waiting to hear a full report on data gathered from the SkyTEM flyover survey. SkyTEM uses electromagnetic tools to identify materials deep underground in order to construct a model of the groundwater basin. This data will presumably be incorporated into a data management system being developed by Stetson.

Story First Published: 2018-01-19