Groundwater Authority hears budget, reports

Agency board, staff continues to vet the feasibility of imported water

Groundwater Authority hears budget, reportsGA representative and City Councilmember Scott Hayman gives a brief to the Ridgecrest City Council — Photo by Laura Austin

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By BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority met Thursday morning to hear an update on the Desert Research Institute’s groundwater basin model and approve a 2019 budget.

While details were not available at press time, the agenda shows projected expenditures at $2.1 million with an income of $1.7 million. Most of the expenses (roughly $1.8 million) will be paid to water resources management firm Stetson Engineers. The bulk of the IWVGA’s funding will come from a Proposition 1 grant with an additional $763,000 from pumping fees.

As the Groundwater Sustainability Plan is being drafted, imported water has floated to the top as the most discussed option for achieving a sustainable groundwater basin. But there’s been little in the way of firm details of where the water will come from or what the cost will be.

The Authority heard presentations from firms willing to facilitate the importation process last month. There are many options available from water banking to long- and short-term leases as well as some opportunities to secure funding. Some people have also suggested working with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; however, critics say DWP has been historically difficult to work with at best.

While many think importing water will be necessary, others question if it is realistic.

Early on, Steve Johnson of Stetson Engineers said one of the obstacles to imported water would be the competition. With hundreds of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies now in the state as a result of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, it is difficult to know how easy obtaining imported water would be.

Members of the public have cited the costs of importation as prohibitive and encouraged more focus on recycled water, conservation and ramping down agriculture.

“My understanding is there should pretty quickly be a report on the research into imported water – what’s going to be available and at what cost,” said Councilmember Scott Hayman, the city’s GA representative, at a recent council meeting.

Kern County’s representative 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason said that the information coming forward from importation “scares the heck out of me.” But he added that he’s encouraged to see options and funding possibilities.

Also on the agenda is a discussion on holding Policy Advisory and Technical Advisory committee meetings in Ridgecrest council chambers so that members of the community can watch from home or access the recordings later on the city’s YouTube channel.

Members of the public have often asked for these meetings to be either recorded or held in the evenings. Gleason asked during last month’s meeting for the item to be placed on the agenda.

He also suggested the possibility of alternate representatives being allowed to attend closed sessions.

“I know [Mayor Peggy] Breeden wants to come to a closed session,” said Gleason. “I’ve always appreciated her support and her efforts in the GSA. But before we get to the point of telling her ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ I’d like to have a legal analysis to make a determination whether it’s appropriate.”

Breeden chaired the Authority last year as the city’s representative before Hayman took over in January. Gleason said the policy would have to apply to either all or none of the alternates.

See future editions for more details.

Story First Published: 2019-02-22