Water district candidate preview

By BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

Candidates for the Indian Wells Valley Water District fielded questions Monday at City Hall during a public forum hosted by the Ridgecrest Area Association of Realtors.

The forum was the latest of several recent candidate events. Water district hopefuls addressed concerns about state mandates and the future of our valley.

Four candidates are vying for the two seats, currently held by incumbents Chuck Griffin and Peter Brown. Challengers are geologic consultant David Saint-Amand and retired aerospace engineer Stan Rajtora.

When asked about the most pressing matters facing IWVWD directors, all candidates mentioned the various state water mandates that California cities have been grappling with since our latest drought.

Rajtora said that the current overdraft of the IWV groundwater basin is one of the primary issues.

In 2014 the state passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requiring basins in overdraft – pumping more water than the natural recharge – to create Groundwater Sustainability Agencies.

Our local IWV Groundwater Authority is tasked with developing and implementing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan by 2020.

Rajtora added that ratepayers are dissatisfied with the high fixed costs of their water bills.

Saint-Amand and Brown also said involvement with the groundwater authority is one of the district’s utmost concerns.

The district is one of five voting members of the IWVGA, the others being the city of Ridgecrest and the counties of Kern, San Bernardino and Inyo – the water district, Ridgecrest and Kern County being the “big three” agencies.

Griffin added that he is concerned with the state law to reduce water use to 50 gallons per capita, per day. Evaporative coolers, which most local residences are equipped with, alone can use 50-100 gallons of water per day.

In regard to sustainability, Griffin suggested, “The first thing we should do as the GSA board is try and figure out a way to buy out the farms.”

While Candidates Brown and Rajtora were less certain that an ag buy-out is the correct course of action, they said it is definitely worth considering.

“I would ask them if they want to sell first,” said Brown. “But I certainly wouldn’t burden the ratepayers with a ton of money to buy out the farms.”

Griffin clarified that the possibility of buying out agriculture would be up to the groundwater authority, not the district alone.

“I’m not 100-percent convinced that we need to buy the farmers out,” said Rajtora. “But the discussion

hasn’t come up and I think we need to have it. It is a logical solution.”

Saint-Amand said he “might have issues” if it came to an ag buy-out.

“Basically when the farms are gone, then the biggest user will be the water district, and they will be paying the fees to cover the cost of the farms,” he said. “And who is going to determine the price of the farmland?”

See future editions of the News Review for more information about political candidates. Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

The IWV Water District will hold its regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 6 p.m., at the district office, 500 W. Ridgecrest Blvd. For agendas and more information, see iwvga.com.

Story First Published: 2018-10-05