GA pursues exploratory projects in Rose Valley

GA pursues exploratory projects in Rose ValleyBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Indian Wells Groundwater Authority is pursuing more than $600,000 worth of projects with the help of the Navy-Coso Royalties Fund.

In 2018, lawmakers helped secure some of the royalties from Coso Geothermal Field’s energy operations – which normally go directly to the Department of the Navy – to be used for local water and energy needs.

Proposed projects include $300,000 for shallow monitoring wells in Rose Valley (Inyo County) to collect data on subsurface water flow and $340,000 to survey and map faults and follow up on recent earthquake activity.

Cmdr. Pete Benson, the GA’s Navy representative, said that he still needed to work with Water Resource Manager Steve Johnson and Stetson Engineers on “putting together some details and actually bring these projects to fruition.”

“But the good news is – it’s going to be funded,” said Benson.

While many have advocated for more exploratory drilling to help fill the GA’s data gaps, member of the public Larry Mead asked why staff had selected Rose Valley.

“I would like to know why it’s so important to spend $300,000 in Rose Valley after [Johnson] and I have talked repeatedly about spending maybe $150,000 down by Robber’s Roost,” said Mead during public comment.

Several stakeholders, including some GA Technical Advisory Committee members, have pressed the GA to spend resources exploring the lesser-known southwestern region of the IWV basin – sometimes referred to as the El Paso subbasin.

In previous discussions, TAC member Tim Parker said there appears to be “potential” based on water levels in the El Paso area and that the region should be considered for filling data gaps.

Other members have also reported increasing water levels in that area.

“Why wouldn’t we want to explore an area that has water levels coming up?” asked Mead.

Johnson said that while the GA is interested in other areas, like the El Paso region, is because staff knows that water comes into the basin from Rose Valley and wants to “get a better handle on that number that would have very important potential impacts to things like our sustainable yield.”

The IWV’s sustainable yield has been estimated at 7,650 acre-feet annually, while our annual pumping exceeds that by an estimated 20,000 acre-feet.

“We have studies that have been done in the past, but any new or better information we can get there will have direct, immediate impacts on the way we’re trying to manage the basin right now,” said Johnson. “The other areas – absolutely we’ve got them on the list. We developed a long list of projects, this just happened to come to the top of the list right now.”

“But why would you want to spend $300,000 on something we already have data on?” asked Mead. “Let’s look at something new. Let’s look at the data for a new area. Let’s not just waste money – let’s solve the problem.”

Johnson said the current wells in Rose Valley are not in optimal locations so that new wells are required to help establish more information regarding water flow.

Story First Published: 2020-07-03