City Council remains tight lipped about the water issue

City Council remains tight lipped about the water issueBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Ridgecrest City Council met Wednesday night. While the council used to have a standing discussion item regarding the IWV Groundwater Authority, where Councilmember Scott Hayman sits as the city’s representative, the topic has been absent from the council’s agenda since June.

“I’m going to continue to avoid any public discussion in regards to water,” announced Mayor Eric Bruen during council’s closing comments on Wednedsay. “Once you’re a defendant in a lawsuit, it tends to get you very quiet.”

The GA – of which the city is a member agency – is in litigation with Mojave Pistachios and Searles Valley Minerals regarding the groundwater replenishment fee. Additionally the IWV Water District has called for a groundwater basin adjudication (see previous issues).

Because the GA meets on weekday mornings, some residents use the evening council meetings as an opportunity to address the city’s representative. But in recent meetings, council has done little to publicly address GA activity.

“Why in the world are our council leaders and city staff trying to make it harder for citizens to address this issue,” said Mike Neel during public comment. “Do you care?

Several members of the public took the council to task in June with a similar sentiment after Hayman reported there was “no news,” rather than debriefing council after the GA ordered Mojave Pistachios to cease pumping for nonpayment of replenishment fees.

“You aren’t communicating to folks that you care,” said Norman Alexander at an earlier meeting. “We’ve got to fix that.”

Councilmember Kyle Blades said that he had private conversations with valley residents regarding water issues. But other than that, council remained tight lipped about the issue.

The IWVGA meets next on Wednesday, Aug. 11, with closed session beginning at roughly 11 a.m. As of last month, meetings were open to the public for physical attendance.

Story First Published: 2021-08-06