District concern: no GA groundwater storage update

By Patricia Farris

News Review Publisher

The major portion of the last regular Indian Wells Valley Water District (IWVWD) board meeting on March 14 was taken up with the report from Board Member Stan Rajtora, the district representative who sits on the board of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (GA). He stated that at the last GA meeting on March 9, the Capital Corp Group had received word from the Department of Water Resources (DWR) that there would be no more grant planning money for Pumping Authorization or data gaps.

According to Rajtora, that grant funding had all gone into imported water expense. Rajtora recommended to the district board that the district should go off on their own to look for grant funding for Pumping Authorization and suggested that the district board include it on the next month’s agenda.

“We did accomplish something at the last GA meeting. That was the approval of the Shallow Well Mitigation Policy. A real milestone as we had been working on it for a year or more. This could be a real help to people in need. It is important. A big shout out should go to the PAC (Political Advisory Committee). They helped get this through.”

On financial activity matters, Rajtora said, “There is still no Fiscal Year 2021 audit. Our GA Manager, Carol Keefer, did say that the auditor now has all the data that he has requested; so the auditor has no hold up, which is not what we have been hearing before. So maybe we will be getting this any day now.”

Rajtora continued, “The 2021 Annual Report is due to DWR on April 1. The biggest issue is that there was no groundwater storage update in the report. That is required by DWR. The reason for that is only 64% of the wells of the depth-to-water measurements were done. This was attributed by Steve Johnson of Stetson Engineers to COVID. That is the second year in a row that COVID has been the excuse. The first year, probably believable. But for the second year, not so easy to believe.

We did not get the measurements so we do not have a groundwater in storage update. This creates a major issue regarding groundwater in storage. There is other recent data that shows the overdraft is a fraction of what is shown in the GSP (Groundwater Sustainable Plan). At this point we are kicking the can down the road again. I think Stetson is claiming that we have to kick it down the road for another year.”

Another concerning issue Rajtora related was that the Annual Report was not available for the GA Board to review for the March 9 meeting. This is the third year in a row that the board did not approve or discuss the report before releasing it to DWR. The board did review the 2021 draft report. It did have some good input from hydrologist Tim Parker and Dave Shriven of Kreiger and Stewart. This information was quite valuable.

Stetson received three sets of comments: One from the Water District, one from Don Decker of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), and from Rajtora. Stetson will update the draft in order to obtain a final report based on the comments. We do not know when that is going to be. The next GA Board Meeting will be after the release of the report. Rajtora said, “I believe we need to have a more formal process for the development for the release of the annual report. It should be noted that the 2020 Annual Report actually gave a change in water storage when it was released to DWR.

However, whenever Stetson reviewed the 2020 report comments that came in after its release they decided that probably those numbers were invalid. So they decided they were not going to use the numbers for that report.

I think we should push to get these annual reports an approval from the board before they are released. The quality of the report is going to suffer until it becomes a report that has to be approved by the board.

Stetson continues working on their wastewater recycling effort. There is nothing new to report on that digital model transfer; it’s supposed to be transferred to the Desert Research Institute (DRI) from the Navy to be transferred to the GA. That is going to be required for the updating of the next GSP release.”

Board members concurred with Rajtora’s concerns regarding the annual reports.

Speaking to concerns regarding groundwater storage, Rajtora said, “We knew a year ago last March that we were not getting the measurements the way we needed to. Stetson did not tell the board that we are not getting the data until probably a month or two ago. By that time the data is lost. If we don’t take it at the right time there is no way you are ever going to get it. This is bothersome. It appears that we do not have a plan in place to get all the wells read correctly this year. They have promised to do that. All we can do is wait and see.”

During public comment Ron Kizinisky, former board member, spoke regarding data gaps. “These data gaps are sufficiently larger. I don’t see how they could proceed in making any kind of decision on water problems - how much we need or what the recharge is.” He suggested that the board look at getting an independent engineering firm to provide these numbers and put the data together. “It needs to be independently surveyed. Anything that happens down the road with replenishment or purchasing of water or whatever goes on is going to be dependent on those numbers.”

Also during public comment, Judi Decker, former board member said, “When you look at GA board financing they are taking replenishment money and using it for other things. They are really stretching it, calling it a Replenishment Fee.”

Legal Counsel Jim Worth gave an update on the status of the Comprehensive Adjudication. He announced that the court did grant the District’s motion to waive the $1,000 appearance fee (where people were required to file a form answer). That has been waived until April 29, 2022. Worth intends to raise this issue at the Case Management Conference to see if we can get a continuance of the variance up through the time when we think most of the de minimis well owners have answered within the 60 days after the time they have been served.

Worth also noted that the GA is going to petition the court to become a party in the adjudication.

Story First Published: 2022-03-18