IWVGA to file action against Inyokern CSD

IWVGA to file action against Inyokern CSDBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The IWV Groundwater Authority (GA)discussed more potential litigation issues. While some claims against the replenishment fee have been dismissed (see previous editions), Inyokern Community Services District (CSD) has joined the list of stakeholders that are failing to pay the GA’s groundwater extraction fee.

According to legal counsel Keith Lemieux, the board directed its law firm to file an action against the CSD to collect fees and order the agency to pay its fees from here on out.

Fees were designed to be used to fund imported water prospects.

“We know the only way [to balance the aquifer] is to bring in supplemental imported water,” said General Manager Carol Thomas-Keefer. “And there’s a good-sized price tag associated with that.”

Accessing State Water Project resources will run the GA a preliminary cost of $22.5 million according to Thomas-Keefer, a cost that will only increase the longer the GA waits.

“The Authority needs to purchase this water as soon as possible,” she said. “Imported water supplies are going to become harder to find and harder to purchase.”

Preliminary costs will pale in comparison to the hundreds of millions more in infrastructure costs to transport and use imported water.

The GA voted this month to “reengage” its Policy Advisory (PAC) and Technical Advisory Committees (TAC).

During the COVID shutdowns of 2020, the committees ceased meeting regularly. While the TAC will continue to provide technical input remotely, the PAC will resume in-person meetings for the first time since the shutdowns.

The committees are appointed to represent a broad cross section of groundwater users and advise the GA on various matters by gathering input and communicating with GA staff. The GA also resumed in-person meetings in July.

The PAC, led by committee chair Dave Janiec, will meet every fourth Thursday at 5 p.m. Another benefit of committee meetings is that they are scheduled in the evenings and give the public another opportunity to provide public comment. A common criticism of GA meetings is that they are held on weekday mornings.

The GA general manager will be authorized to provide agenda topics and assign items to the PAC agenda. While the staff report indicates that the general manager will do so “in coordination with board members, legal counsel and the Water Resource Manager,” the board clarified that contacting all of these people is not a requirement.

“We should have enough faith in our general manager that she doesn’t have to contact the world before she assigns a topic to the PAC,” said GA boardmember Stan Rajtora, representing the IWV Water District.

The first scheduled PAC meeting was Thursday, Aug. 26.

According to the staff report, TAC members have continued providing input through emails and virtual meetings and staff did not recommend establishing a regular meeting schedule for the technical committee in favor of meeting on an as-needed basis.

But TAC member Don Decker still pushed for in-person meetings. “Without those meetings, that public presence simply is not there,” he said.

He also pushed for finding more members to fill vacancies on the committee. “It’s hard to find people who are technically qualified and have time to do something like this.”

TAC members will review and provide input on basin modeling, shallow well impacts, conservation efforts, imported water supply and other topics.

The GA’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Sept. 8. See future editions for more information.

Story First Published: 2021-08-27