New year, new GA

New year, new GAIWVGA board members and staff during their last meeting. The Authority’s next meeting is Thursday, Jan. 17.

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By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

After taking a break for the holiday season, the Indian Wells Groundwater Authority gets back to work this month creating a Groundwater Sustainability Plan that will be acceptable to the California Water Resources Control Board.

The IWVGA became the Groundwater Sustainability Agency for the IWV in 2016 in accordance with the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. But this year the Authority will proceed with almost-entirely new boardmembers.

In a surprise vote last month, newly elected Ridgecrest City Councilmember Scott Hayman was appointed to replace Mayor Peggy Breeden, who chaired the IWVGA board last year, as Ridgecrest’s representative to the Authority. Breeden will serve as Hayman’s alternate representative.

The position of chair rotates annually among the “big three” member agencies — Ridgecrest, IWV Water District and Kern County — with the responsibility going to the water fistrict for the coming year. Neither the water district’s representative nor the alternate saw reelection last November, so Director Ron Kicinski was selected as the new rep with newly elected Director David Saint-Amand as alternate.

New representatives for San Bernardino County and the Department of the Navy, a nonvoting advirosory member agency, also joined the board late last year. San Bernardino County Administrative Office Unit Chief Luther Snoke took over for county staffer Bob Page and Cmdr. Pete Benson replaced Cmdr. Brian Longbottom upon his retirement.

Inyo County Water Department Director Bob Harrington announced his retirement to the board during November’s meeting. Deputy Director Aaron Steinwand will take over as representative for Inyo County.

Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason will retain his seat at the table as Kern County’s representative and Ryan Klausch of the Bureau of Land Management will stay on as a nonvoting member.

The IWVGA’s Technical Advisory Committee met Thursday to discuss GSP development — including hydrogeologic models, well impacts, monitoring wells and alternative water studies. The Policy Advisory Committee also met to hear an update from special legal counsel Jim Markman on the pumping allocation process.

Committees meet the first Thursday of every month at the IWVWD office. The Authority board will meet Thursday, Jan. 17 with open session beginning at 10 a.m. at City Hall to hear committee reports and an update from Water Resources Manager Steve Johnson of Stetson Engineers.

The Authority will also hear an update on pumping fees and well registration. The IWVGA is still working to gather as much well data as possible from local private well owners and is collecting a $30-per-acre-foot pumping fee from groundwater users.

Noncommercial “de minimis” users are exempt, but customers who get water through large pumpers like the water district are subject to the fee. The pumping fee was passed in July to cover a $930,000 funding gap in the Authority’s roughly $5-million budget to develop a GSP by January 2020.

The current fee does not include any fees the GSP may include to cover costs of importing water or alternatives to reduce groundwater basin decline.

The public is invited to attend IWVGA meetings to learn more about local groundwater sustainability efforts. See iwvga.org.

Story First Published: 2019-01-04