GA addresses funding, plan of action

GA addresses funding, plan of actionThe IWV Groundwater Authority has spent more than a year crafting policy, figuring out committee structures and seeking funding. After a promising report on a potential grant to form a Groundwater Sustainability Plan, the question remains — will the IWVGA find the momentum and funds to complete the tasks ahead within the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act’s timeframe?

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By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The IWVGA held its first meeting of the year Jan. 18 at City Hall. The board received a technical report on the U.S. Geological Survey’s ongoing groundwater recharge study.

While the study is still in draft form, findings suggest that previous estimates remain accurate, with an estimated groundwater recharge of between 6,500 and 9,500 acre-feet per year.

This natural recharge is an average, and individual yearly figures can vary widely, but the recharge appears to be much less than the 26,000 AFY used by pumpers in the valley. According to SGMA, the IWV needs to reduce its pumping to match natural recharge or find additional sources of water — that’s the task of our Groundwater Sustainability Agency, the IWVGA board.

The local GSA, made up of members from several city and county public agencies, has asked Stetson Engineering to act as water resources manager during this groundwater management process. Stetson President Steve Johnson updated the GSA board with “really good news” last week on the status of some $2.5 million in potential state grant money.

According to Johnson, only $86.4 million of the available $86.3 million in grant funding has been requested by various GSAs across the state, indicating that we will receive most, or perhaps all, of the requested funds.

While the uncertainty of grant funding was the main topic of discussion for several months, boardmembers now want to ensure that a plan will be ready in time to meet SGMA’s 2020 deadline.

“What I’m really hoping we see at these meetings when we do the [Plan of Action and Milestones] development is you letting out your inner bulldog,” said China Lake Public Works Officer Cmdr. Brian Longbottom, Navy representative.

“The immediate thing that comes to my mind is what is our percentage to complete? Are we on schedule or are we behind schedule? If we’ve behind schedule, what’s our recovery plan?”

Longbottom stressed that the plan of action needs to be updated and reported on every meeting and asked Johnson if his firm had any estimate on how far into the plan we have come.

“That’s a good question,” said Johnson.

“I don’t mean to put you on the spot,” said Longbottom, “but this is what we’re missing. It concerns me — we have 20 meetings left, give or take, until the GSP is due. That means every time we meet, five percent of that GSP needs to be done.”

Johnson said that he and his team were “rolling up our sleeves” to get organized and working with the Policy Advisory and Technical Advisory committees to complete POAM tasks.

One such task is developing a data management system to navigate all information to date regarding our groundwater basin. But several committee members and other stakeholders have pointed out that usable database management systems already exist.

IWV Water District General Manager Don Zdeba spoke during public comment where he said that existing database management systems by both Ramboll Environ and Kern County Water Agency were “more comprehensive and more valuable than Stetson’s efforts.”

He recommended that the board stop paying Stetson to pursue developing a new system and work with existing data.

Several TAC members shared Zdeba’s opinions when database management was a major topic of discussion during their meeting earlier this month.

GSA Boardmember Mick Gleason, Kern County 1st District supervisor, disagreed, saying he had “concerns about not owning the data management system.”

“I have issues with any agency other than this board having direct ownership of that product,” he said. “I’d like to have control of that when we want to take action with regard to it.”

Zdeba assured the board that the contract for the system was with the water district, one of the GSA member agencies, and would always be an available resource.

The board didn’t make a final decision on the matter, and the topic will see further discussion at future TAC and GSA meetings.

The next Policy and Technical Advisory Committee meeting will be on the first Thursday of the month, Feb. 1.

The GSA meets the third Thursday of every month, 10 a.m. at City Hall.

For agendas and more info see www.kerncounty.com/WaterResources.aspx.

Story First Published: 2018-01-26