To the Editor: Rebuts Rajtora’s claims

Stan Rajtora (Water Confusion Due in Part to Poor Policies and Communication, Sept 25, 2020, News Review) is correct on one point — the basin has been in trouble for more than 60 years. During those 60 years the community has consistently argued about the science that shows the extent of water over draft and continued as a farming community with a growing city dependent on a military installation. The agricultural zoning has been in place during that entire time and actually predates the California Environmental Quality Act (1974) which requires review of environmental impacts. Until Supervisor Gleason took decisive action in 2014 to ask the Board of Supervisors to fund a land use review of the unincorporated area for zoning, Kern County had never rezoned property over the objections of the property owner.

It is easy to forget the passion and debate on all sides from the removal of agricultural zoning from over 1000 properties in the Indian Wells Valley Land Management Plan process in 2014. The county invested thousands of staff hours into the process as well as over $ 500,000 for the CEQA process and zoning changes. This collaborative community conversation resulted in a plan that, while not going as far as some wanted and too far for others, accomplished the goal of stopping agricultural expansion in the valley.

Land use has not been mismanaged by the county in the valley. Rather, the scientific facts regarding the extent of water available for everyone in the valley to share has been endlessly debated for more than 60 years. Now the State of California has directed the valley come together and find a solution. Rebalancing water use after so many years will need everyone who uses water to come together to support research, monitoring, replenishment activities and find the funding to accomplish these very difficult tasks to save the Indian Wells Valley for the next 60 years.

Lorelei H Oviatt, director

Kern County Planning and Natural Resources

Story First Published: 2020-10-02