GA seeks support from Navy

Board approves report amid LADWP project concerns

GA seeks support  from  NavyBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority will continue pursuing water interconnection projects with Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency.

The GA board voted last month to consider both projects in its groundwater sustainability report to the U.S. Navy, despite concerns that LADWP may not be a feasible option as an alternate water source.

“Last we heard from LADWP, they had no interest in wheeling water for the Indian Wells valley and no interest for an exchange situation,” said John Vallejo, the board’s Inyo County representative.

The GA initially made the decision to leave project specifics out of the board’s report to the Navy, with the intent to stay open to any and all available projects. But in soliciting financial support, representatives from water marketing consultant Capitol Core Croup said the Navy wants to see those details before making a commitment.

“[The Navy] wants specifics – what are we buying and what is the proposed route,” said Michael McKinney of CCG. “Those are some of the questions coming up.”

“I want it crystal clear to the people we’re looking to for funding that they understand what our options are,” said GA Boardmember Ron Kicinski, representative from the IWV Water District.

According to CCG’s Jeff Simonetti, neither LADWP or AVEK “have fully weighed in on ‘yes – we’re interested in moving forward’ or ‘no – we’re not interested in moving forward,’” and both are awaiting direction from the IWVGA board.

“That’s a little different than what we heard last time from [General Manager Don Zdeba],” said Vallejo. In the past, LADWP has held a policy position against water wheeling and water exchanges. “Are you telling us that has changed and now they’re waiting to see what we do? Because I can forward you the email that has the quote of their policy position. Are we making that crystal clear to the Navy?”

Water Resource Manager Steve Johnson chimed in, saying he recalled LADWP being open to a water project pending Inyo County’s cooperation. But Vallejo said that was explicitly regarding a banking project, no other sort of exchange. Inyo representatives have also made it clear in the past that they would oppose any project that removed water from Inyo County.

“We need to explore every single avenue,” said Kicinski. “I haven’t seen anything in writing that LADWP is saying ‘we refuse to deal with you.’ The only thing I’ve seen is they want the parties involved to have a mutual agreement of how they can all benefit. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s something we need to work on.”

Vallejo reiterated that he was reading directly from an email from Zdeba regarding the general manager’s discussions with Victor Harris of Stantec, one of LADWP’s consulting firms.

“It’s straight from our conversations with [LADWP], so if you say you’ve seen nothing in writing – go look at your email,” said Vallejo.

Zdeba said that both CCG and Johnson have had subsequent meetings with LADWP where they expressed interest in a water banking project.

“That’s my issue in terms of being ‘crystal clear,’” said Vallejo. “Our report to the Navy talks about an exchange program, not a banking program … so are we going to revise the report and just hope LADWP is going to change its mind in the future and align its project with what we want them to do?”

Kern County 1st District Supervisor and GA Chair Mick Gleason made a motion to approve the report, including information on water exchange programs with both agencies. He said he did not want to “put limits on either of those opportunities.”

Vallejo said he disapproved of the report unless it could be changed to reflect that LADWP’s interest is limited and only pertains to a banking project.

“That’s what I want the letter to be clear about … if we’re not clear, we’ll be spinning our wheels for something that’s not in the best interest of the groundwater users.”

The board approved the report with no changes 3-2, Vallejo and San Bernardino representative Bob Page voting against it.

Story First Published: 2020-06-19