District promotes public participation in local water issues

DWR responds to Water Districts request for assistance

By Patricia Farris

News Review Publisher

With the announcement of the upcoming visit of the state agency Department of Water Resources and the Groundwater Authority’s (GA) receipt of $7.6 million grant, the tone was set for lively discussions at the Monday Indian Wells Valley Water District Board meeting. The DWR is scheduled to meet at a public forum at the Ridgecrest City Council Chambers on Tuesday May 17th at 6:00 PM. A two hour in person meeting will include an open phoneline for verbal comments. DWR’s stated purpose for the visit is to offer help to the GA and local water management groups to foster discussions among diverse water management groups and jurisdictions and the support of Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) implementation.

The Water District Board had requested that this professional facilitator come and support the basin in discussing challenges related to SGMA and the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). Also, to discuss the multiple related lawsuits that have been filed. There is a need to assist the community in understanding the water issues in order to focus on constructive solutions.

According to IWVGA Chair Phillip Peters, in referring to the $7.6 million grant, he stated, “This will allow the GA to initiate the project that will ultimately import water to our basin and help us achieve a sustainable groundwater supply.”

During public comment at the District meeting, Ron Kicinski, a former Water District board member commented, “So it’s nice to have $7.6 million but I can see right where it’s going to go. You are going to be paying something that in my belief the community cannot afford, that’s another issue” he said. “Hopefully, DWR looks at that and hears about it as well. Filling the data gaps has definitely got to be done. We don’t have the data gaps filled and we are already building pipelines. When they start looking permitting, they will run up against a lot of legal issues. I believe Stetson is going to end up with that being paid to them.” Kicinski advised the Board to watch that closely.

Stan Rajatora, Representative for the District on the GA Board has been continually pushing the GA to be more transparent and fiscally responsible.” The District has paid over $4 million in Replenishment Fees and Board members complain that they are being ignored by the GA. Currently the Water District is the only pumper that is paying this fee.

Rajatora stated “Six years into the GA operations we still do not have a validated method to measure change to groundwater storage”. He has repeatedly related to the GA that we cannot control what we cannot measure. He insists that the GSP should have validated a methodology and that the water years 2019, 2020 and 2021 Annual Reports should have been included in our data base.

We are now at least 3 years behind where we should be. I will be tracking this closely until we get this critical issue under control.

It was reported that in March 2022 that 25 wells were measured and that there are still serious data gaps. That is 25 wells out 41 monitoring wells.

During public comment a caller said they were frustrated that the GA grant funds are not being used for something that will give us new water immediately.

The $7.6 million was approved by DWR and designated to be used for the implementation of projects to help achieve sustainable supply for the region.

However, the GA’s proposed spending plan focuses on preliminary work for it’s Imported Water Interconnection Project.

Story First Published: 2022-05-13