Trona town hall speaks to IWVGA ’water war’

Trona town hall speaks to IWVGA ’water war’Contributed by Regina Troglin, spokesperson for the coordinating group that is leading the town’s effort to save the community.

————————

On Thursday, July 29th, a well attended town hall meeting was held at Trona Elk’s Lodge. As a result of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authorities (IWVGA) all-out attack on the town of Trona and its largest employer, Searles Valley Minerals (SVM), residents from Trona and Ridgecrest came together not only to discuss the water issue but to include possible solutions.

Attending the meeting were representatives from every elected office that represents Trona.

Attendees were Chris Scott from Congressman Obernolte’s office, Chris Quinonez from Senator Grove’s office, Miriam Munoz from Assemblyman Smith’s office, and Tim Itnyre from San Bernardino District 1 Supervisor Cook’s Office. Tim Itnyre is the San Bernardino County representative on the GA board. He faced tough questions from the audience. In the last four years, there has yet to be an event where all four attended and participated at the same time.

A LA Times reporter who is doing a story on the water wars in Trona, has spent four days interviewing community and business members regarding the water war. With an audience as large as Los Angeles, and the right spin, attention outside of the area might finally be given to these issues.

Members of the communities offered their honest thoughts on the replenishment fee and how the GA was started. Discussion included the current voting members bias against Trona, and many other items that members of the community can never seem to get answered during GA general meetings.

Sixty-five in-person individuals attended the meeting with another 10 to 20 watching on Facebook live stream. With Itnyre answering questions honestly and thoughtfully, it gave the sense that finally someone was actually putting the people of Trona first.

Itnyre’s responses to heated questions and comments didn’t come with political maneuvering or promises like so many of us have seen in the past. For the questions he didn’t have an answer to he simply offered to try and find out the information, and at times even agreed with community members about some of their frustrations. Some of the questions directly related to how the GA functions and what could be done better for the future. One suggestion was that the GA add elected individuals onto the board to represent the impacted communities, since currently the GA is only comprised of appointed members.

A presentation on a potential solve for the overdraft status of the Indian Wells Valley Basin was given by Regina Troglin. She presented a 5 phased plan that would potentially eliminate the need to import water from an unknown source. She noted on several items that USDA and other grant programs existed, which could potentially be used to offset costs. A community member noted that some of these ideas had been pitched early on to the GA by the Brackish Water Committee but it never moved forward.

Regina’s aim was to give the GA an idea that would not only be more cost effective, but would also eliminate the need for putting businesses in jeopardy due to higher-than-normal fees. She directed many comments to Itnyre, since he is a GA board member. She also directed comments to others since additional help from the state and federal government would be needed.

Additional topics of public safety were also discussed including high school and road repairs.

Although money is a factor in almost every issue in Trona, members of the community noted that SVM is one of the largest taxpayers in the county and yet Trona sees next to none of those tax dollars coming back to it in order to make improvements.

The question was raised by Assemblyman Smith’s representative if Trona Unified had applied for aid or other things following the earthquake to fix the high school. And it was confirmed that the school board had attempted to find funding but was denied at every turn. There was not a detailed explanation of why or how.

After the meeting ended representatives stayed to speak with individuals on a one-on-one basis. The feedback was one of positivity.

Additional community involvement has already been seen online after the meeting, with many residents of Trona stepping up and wanting to get involved. As the future of Trona still looms in the balance no one can deny that the link between Ridgecrest and Trona is there. Both towns need each other.

Courtesy photo: A packed house met at the Trona Elks Lodge for a town hall meeting Thursday July 29 to discuss water issues.

Story First Published: 2021-08-06