Groundwater committees discuss data management, public outreach

Groundwater committees discuss data management, public outreachUPDATE: After the News Review went to press, we learned that the state had approved the IWVGA's request for $2.1 million in grant funds. See future editions for more information.

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By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

Groundwater committees met earlier this month to discuss groundwater data management systems and public outreach prior to the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board’s regular meeting on Thursday, Feb. 15. After months of trying to find its purpose in relation to the authority board, the Technical Advisory Committee nearly passed a recommendation during its Feb. 1 meeting.

Committee members heard a report from the Brackish Water Resource Group on a data management system developed by SkyTEM – an aerial survey company that did a recent evaluation of the IWV groundwater basin. After a lengthly debate, the motion to recommend SkyTEM’s data management system to the authority board was made and seconded, but was rescinded after comment from Stetson Engineering President Steve Johnson.

Stetson serves as the Water Resources manager – a go between for the IWVGA and its committees – and is tasked with developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the IWV.

Johnson cautioned that a data management system developed for any reason other than to satisfy the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requirements may impact Proposition 1 grant eligibility.

The IWVGA is still waiting to hear back from the state on its application for some $2.1 million in state grant funds to facilitate the GSP.

Prior to the TAC meeting, many stakeholders encouraged the authority board to use existing groundwater data management systems instead of using limited funds to have Stetson create its own.

But the consensus of the committee was to withhold a recommendation and defer to Stetson’s recommendation.

The Policy Advisory Committee also met on Feb. 1, though members spent most of the time discussing public relations rather than policy.

The primary topic was a draft Communication and Engagement Plan. The IWVGA is a new government agency created as a result of SGMA known as a Groundwater Sustainable Agency. The multi-agency board is run by representatives from Ridgecrest; the IWV Water District; Kern, Inyo and San Bernardino counties; the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of the Navy.

The board will ultimately be responsible for managing water use and levying fees to pay for water alternatives. While this management is expected to heavily impact valley residents, many don’t know about SGMA and the authority, which is why the PAC has been tasked with public outreach.

The PAC is using a plan outline from a Department of Water Resources guidance document as a template. The goal of the PAC is to customize and adapt the standard template to fit the needs of the IWV. The major topics in the outline are 1) goals and desired outcomes, 2) identification of the audience, 3) audience survey and mapping, 4) messages and talking points, 5) venues for engaging, 6) implementation timeline and 7) evaluation and assessment. The customized objectives will be delivered to the IWVGA to be used in generation of a formal document.

Among the plan’s goals are continuing to promote economic development while protecting private property rights and encouraging public participation. Because the plan is still in draft form, the PAC will presumably continue discussing it next month.

Until then the IWVGA meets on Feb. 15, 10 a.m., at City Hall. For an agenda and more information see kerncounty.com/Water Resoures.aspx.

Pictured: Water Resources Manager Steve Johnson, president of Stetson Engineering, during this month’s Technical Advisory Committee meeting. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2018-02-09