GA hears committee reports

GA hears committee reportsIWVWD Board Members Chuck Cordell and David Saint-Amand and District Manager Don Zdeba discuss the Groundwater Authority agenda at a prior meeting — Photo by Laura Austin

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By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority had its first meeting of the year on Thursday, Jan. 16. While details were not available at press time, the GA was scheduled to hear a report from the Technical Advisory Committee on groundwater pumping scenarios, as well as well monitoring and sustainability priorities.

The TAC discussed these items at length earlier this month and will present its summary to the multi-agency GA board, made up of city, county, water district and federal representatives. The GA is a state-mandated entity charged with developing a groundwater dustainability plan for the IWV basin.

Water Resources Manager Steve Johnson asked the TAC to create a priority list of projects eligible for the Navy-Coso royalties fund – previous federal funds that have recently been made available to secure water and energy needs for China Lake.

TAC members stressed water importation as Priority No. 1, but there is still the question of costs.

“How do we understand the feasibility – what’s feasible from an economic standpoint?” asked TAC Member Scott O’Neil.

The committee is also working to fill some of the basin’s data gaps by drilling more wells in the southwestern portion of the basin, an area referred to as the El Paso subbasin. The GA has primarily relied on data from the most heavily pumped portions of the basin and self reporting from private well owners.

The TAC also discussed its baseline pumping model to establish a point from which it can move toward sustainability. But many took issue with some of the baseline projections, specifically the water allocation requested by Meadowbrook Farms.

Meadowbrook asked for a baseline pumping allocation of 12,000 acre-feet per year beginning in 2020, an amount roughly double the organization’s previous year’s pumping and 3,000 acre-feet more than its recent average. According to Legal Representative Derek Hoffman, the increased allocation would take into account repaired equipment and a return to the company’s historic pumping levels.

According to the TAC, the entire valley pumps roughly 27,000 acre-feet annually.

“I have very little tolerance for that kind of posturing from an entity in the valley,” said IWV Water District Director David Saint-Amand when the water district discussed the GA’s agenda on Monday. Saint-Amand, is the district’s alternate representative to the GA board. Director Ron Kicinski serves as the district’s primary representative and chair.

Saint-Amand called Meadow-brook’s proposed pumping allocation “unconscionable.”

“That’s just to establish a baseline, which is more theoretical,” said Director Stan Rajtora. “If they were unconstrained to the amount of pumping they could do, that’s what they would do. It’s something we have to track for sure. It’s important, but it’s not a crisis yet.”

The Ridgecrest City Council also briefly discussed the GA agenda during a meeting earlier this week.

“I urge anybody concerned about the water issues to attend these meetings,” said Council-member Scott Hayman, Ridgecrest’s GA representative. “I urge the public to get informed and participate as much as possible.”

For information about the Authority, visit iwvga.org. See future editions for more details on this month’s meeting.

Story First Published: 2019-01-18