GA discusses growth under SGMA

GA discusses growth under SGMABy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

“What is the allowable growth we’re going to plan for under the groundwater sustainability plan?” was one of the questions that came out of a Policy Advisory Committee report last week during the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority meeting.

PAC Chair David Janiec brought up the topic. He requested that the GA board begin discussing growth and how it pertains to water consumption and protecting the mission of the valley’s primary employer, the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division. “I think that modest growth within the community is a necessity to support the mission [of NAWCWD],” said Chair Ron Kicinski, representative for the IWV Water District. He added that the water district uses a 3-percent annual growth rate for its projections.

“I think that is the key question and the key purpose of developing a GSP,” said Mick Gleason, the board’s representative for Kern County. “I think gone are the days when we can just say as a community that we want to grow. I think we have to develop, target, understand and shape that growth the way we want to … by a consensus or all the participants in that discussion.

“I think our growth today, as a community, needs to be truly understood because we’re going to be asking people to reduce and people are going to be suffering costs because of this stuff. And then on the other hand, we’re going to be saying that we need to grow. That balance needs to be clearly articulated.”

“We strongly believe that it’s a good topic for the board to include in the GSP,” said Janiec. He mentioned the possibility of additional permitting and fees in consideration for water sustainability measures.

The city’s current permitting and fee practices have received criticism in recent months, with complaints about already excessive and unpredictable development fees. The city is working with local developers to create a developer-friendly guidebook to help streamline the building process.

“How does new development fit into helping us fund the requirements for what the GA is about and what it’s doing?” said Kicinski. “It could be everything from types of fees or a limit on size … there’s a lot to be discussed here.”

Inyo County Representative John Vallejo, who weighed in via teleconference, said that projected growth is “obviously a pertinent topic” as the GSP will require the Authority to develop a water budget.

“As part of that water budget based on prospective growth. I don’t have an answer to the question, but it is a very important topic and has to be part of our plan.”

PAC member Judie Decker addressed the topic during public comment. She asked how the GA plans to deal with new projects and new businesses coming to town.

“Where do they fit into this when we don’t have enough water for the existing population?” she asked. “You’re asking agriculture to pay a pump fee and at the same time on the other side, you’re allowing growth. As far as I know there is no fee from the water district, the city or the county that says ‘you can grow, but you are going to pay X number of dollars for the amount of water your project is going to need over time.’”

The Authority accepted the committee report but made no formal decision on how to proceed with a discussion regarding controlling growth.

For more information about ongoing GSA business, visit iwvga.org for agendas and information on future meetings.

Pictured: Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason, the county’s representative to the IWV Groundwater Authority, questions how to manage economic growth under SGMA regulations — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2019-05-24