Groundwater authority discusses pumping fees

In an effort to establish a Groundwater Sustainability Plan by 2020, the groundwater authority will discuss collecting fees from local pumpers to cover costs until then

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By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority met Thursday morning for its regular monthly meeting. Details weren’t available at press time, but a section of the agenda was dedicated to a discussion item regarding a pumping fee schedule.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requires the authority to develop a GSP by 2020 that will put IWV on track to balance or reverse its declining groundwater table by the year 2040. Just to have the plan ready in time, the authority needs an estimated $1.5 million more in funding to cover administrative costs.

According to IWV Water District Legal Counsel Jim Worth, the authority is required to hold a public workshop before establishing any such fee. A potential date for the workshop is April 5, with the meeting to be dedicated to this specific item.

The authority discussed the possibility of a $50-80-per-acre-foot fee, which would cover the gap funding over the next year and a half.

An acre foot is roughly 326,000 gallons, and according to the IWVWD, each individual uses about 52,350 gallons each year. So a household of four can be expected to pay an additional $32- to $51 per year.

This fee is not a part of the GSP, and its only purpose is to cover the IWVGA’s costs through 2020. This discussion does not cover any future fees for alternative water supplies that may be needed to reduce groundwater-table decline.

The item came up during a discussion at the IWVWD Board of Directors meeting where Stan Rajtora, a member of the public, criticized the authority for not forming a public finance committee earlier in the process.

“There are at least two funding sources that have not been tapped,” said Rajtora, “one of which is the U.S. Navy... The other funding stream is the county.”

Rajtora said getting money from the Navy would be difficult and should have been started “months, if not years” ago. Meanwhile Kern County has been collecting taxes from farmers for years without addressing groundwater issues.

“They are getting money for water that comes out of the ground,” he said. “Farmers were encouraged to come here and farm. We need to figure out how much money the county is actually getting for the farmers’ use of the water and make sure they contribute some of the money. They’re making money and we’re paying money.

“The only way to address it is through a finance committee. We need to get people actively looking at these problems. If you look at the county general plan, they’re responsible for quality of water supplies. The county has been getting taxes over the last 150 years. They shouldn’t be saying ‘it’s your problem.’ They helped generate the problem. They need to help solve the problem.”

Rather than traditional public comment, the authority is suggesting that members of the public fill out comment cards prior to the proposed workshop meeting and time limits may be placed on each speaker according to the number of comment cards received.

This method has proved controversial in the past with members of the public claiming they have the right to speak at a public workshop regardless of whether they’ve filled out a card.

The groundwater authority met yesterday at City Hall. See future editions for more coverage.

For more groundwater authority information, see www.iwwga.org.

Story First Published: 2018-03-16