Groundwater Authority OKs well-monitoring project

Groundwater Authority OKs  well-monitoring projectBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority will continue to collect well-monitoring data through Wellntel’s monitoring program at least for another year.

Wellntel has allowed the Authority to use it’s equipment, which reports real-time information on well levels, at no charge for more than a month beyond the original trial period.

“We’re entering the high pumping season through the summer and we see value in continuing to collect that data at least for a year,” said Don Zdeba, acting general manager for the Authority.

While members of staff and the public have expressed the desire to continue collecting any and all data they can get their hands on, the primary obstacle to continuing with the project is the $12,000 price tag.

The item was not included in the Authority’s already-tight budget. And Water Resource Manager Steve Johnson admitted that the project didn’t provide “critical” data required to complete a Groundwater Sustainability Plan by January of 2020.

“Are we going to have a tangible use for it? Is there space for it in our budget that’s a higher priority than something else that we have yet to pay for?” asked Inyo County representative John Vallejo.

“I don’t feel comfortable with those questions not being answered at this point.”

Johnson said his firm would be able to use the data and figure out the best points in the valley to get the most use out of the program. He said cashflow concerns would be the only reason not to approve the project.

Kern County representative 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason said it was a “worthwhile investment” if Johnson thought his firm, Stetson Engineers, could utilize the data.

Don Decker, a member of the Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee, raised concerns that the data didn’t adhere to National Institute of Standards and Technology certification requirements.

“The fact that it does not have proper certification means that it would not be suitable for an evidentiary hearing if and when we actually go to court,” said Decker.

As a new government agency dealing with topics as contentious as mandatory well registration and reporting, the Authority has frequently discussed the risk of litigation.

“I don’t think we ever anticipated using the data in the event we get into a legal issue,” said Johnson. He said Decker’s point was taken and that Stetson would take steps to make sure the data was accurate. “But we do see the value, it’s always great to have data.”

Authority Chair Ron Kicinski of the IWV Water District said he wanted to move forward with the project, despite its not being a budgeted item.

“I feel like [the monitoring project] is something that we’ve agreed should happen,” said Kicinski.

“The ad hoc committee says there will be data available that helps us. I believe we need to continue with this.”

The board approved the project 4-0, Vallejo abstaining.

The total cost comes out to $12,461.64 for the first year with continuing annual costs of $2,000 for data services.

Story First Published: 2019-08-02