To the Editor: ‘Groundwater Authority needs to step up’

There is a very obvious and rational alternative to the groundwater pumping fee proposed by the IWV Groundwater Authority. The proposed groundwater pumping fee is not required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

SGMA authorizes only the use of such a pumping fee. I believe the original motivation for the fee was to allow the state to claim that SGMA is not an unfunded mandate. The fee should be used as a last resort. GA use of the fee is an admission of poor planning.

To understand the alternative approach, it is first important to recognize that our problem is a health and safety problem. Four out of five of the GA agencies are getting taxes to protect the citizens from health and safety threats. The major threat exists in Kern County where domestic well owners are at risk of wells going dry.

Some domestic wells may be impacted due to agriculture water pumping. Kern County zoned too much land for agriculture, and it issued too many agricultural well permits. Up to a very few years ago, Kern County was encouraging farmers come to our valley and use our water. That has now thankfully changed, but irreversible damage exists.

That said, Kern County is not alone in creating the existing problem. The IWV Water District gives lip service to conservation while at the same time has established a fee structure that encourages increased use of water.

The city of Ridgecrest has seen significant expansion after the valley was designated to be in overdraft. No agency can claim it is blameless. More importantly, they all chose to be on the GA. Membership on the GA board should not be used as a tool to avoid fiscal responsibility. The GA board agencies need to work together to come up with a mutually agreeable cost-sharing allocation to cover the current budget gap.

We are spending way too much time and energy trying to implement a pumping fee for a one- to two-million-dollar revenue gap. We are also antagonizing far too many residents in so doing.

The preparation of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan is a time we all need to be working together. The current approach is tearing our valley apart. That is counterproductive. The GA agencies need to step up to the task.

Stan Rajtora

Story First Published: 2018-06-29