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Citizen requires GA to provide updated costs on Pipeline

By Patricia Farris News Review Publisher – On Wednesday, January 11th, 2023 the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority held their first meeting of the new year. It was Chuck Griffin’s first meeting to serve on the Board representing the Indian Wells Valley Water District. Griffin is replacing Stan Rajtora who formerly served on the Board of the IWVWD. Noticeably, Griffin was not introduced by the Board Chair, Scott Hayman. 

Mike Neal speaks to GA / Laura Austin Photo

During public comment, Ridgecrest citizen Mike Neal said, “There is a serious lack of getting data out to the public as far as the cost of the projected pipeline is concerned. All we have at present are numbers of 2019 put up by the Technical Advisory Committee. Their numbers are for the capital cost for the two possible projects. I’m putting together a spreadsheet that I will gladly give to anyone on the GA board who wants it. 

“At this point, I only have the three to four-year-old hard numbers, so I am putting in inflation projections. It would be much better if I had had updated cost projections. We need updated information on three items as soon as possible so we can get the information to the people in this Valley. We don’t just have a $20-$30 per month of extra costs, in my estimates it’s going to be more like $87 per month or at least $50 per month on each household. This should not come as a big surprise to people when it finally starts hitting their pocketbooks. They deserve to know about this ahead of time. I make a formal request for this information as soon as possible.”

There was a resolution authorization of General Manager Carol Keefer to execute a funding agreement for the Urban Communities Drought Relief Program. Keefer said “We are also requesting funding for the Water Recycling Plant, well mitigation and rehab associated with the damages to wells from the declining water levels. 

“The application itself is still being developed and finalized. We expect the amount of the request to be 5.3 million dollars or so. What we are doing is coming back to you with another resolution which not only allows us to submit the application but authorizes the General Manager to sign the funding agreement if our projects are selected for funding.

“The previous resolutions neglected to include that provision so we are bringing this back requesting that you authorize the General Manager to execute the funding agreement if we are given funding. 

“The application will provide information on our potential eligibility for the waiver. Stetson will help prepare the resolution. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) staff will review to find out if we are eligible for the waiver. 

“When we hear about whether or not we get the grant we also should hear if we qualify for the waiver.” The motion was carried unanimously by the Board.

Ridgecrest resident Mike Neal spoke during another public comment period saying, “I want to make a comment about the disposition of the water that will be coming from the Water Recycling Plant. The Water Recycling Plant is almost entirely outside of what the Navy will be sending to the Treatment Plant. This water is entirely the Water District customers’ water. They paid to pump the water out of the ground to get to their homes, they will pay for the Sewer Treatment Plant and the Water Recycling Plant. The water that comes out of that plant needs to be credited to the allocation for the Water District. I foresee what’s going to be planned is that the City is going to claim it as their water and they will want to sell it back to the people who already paid for the water and are paying for the staff salaries. It is our water and we want that water put into the allotment  that is going to the Water District so we don’t have to pay the GA fees to import water. That huge amount is $2,000 per acre foot fees to the City for the water we have already paid for.”

Water Resource Manager Steve Johnson said, “On item one, the report will include the grant funding update and request for grant funding for the pipeline project. Item number two would include information on the most recent grant application submitted that is for about 5 million dollars. 

“You have information on the current project of the Recycled Water Program. We will be providing information as to the project report coming out of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) which is a combination of staff reports from the Water District, the City and the GA. We are also providing information on the status of the Bureau of Reclamation feasibility study that’s in the packet. We are preparing the feasibility study in order to qualify for Federal funds for the project. Regarding the status of the Imported Water Project, we are working with our consultants Provost and Prichard on the Alignments and the Request for Proposals. An update on the Shallow Well Mitigation Program is included in your packet. Also inclusive is the schedule for completion of the Annual Report.”

Jean Moran, staff member with Steve Johnson, gave an update on the data collection and monitoring update. There are three pieces on data and the monitoring update.

One is the groundwater levels have been posted on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) site. The other piece on data collection is the Access Agreement to Navy real estate that is almost complete. This is for the purpose of installing calorimetry equipment at five key wells on the Navy Base. We expect that to be completed this month. In addition, we are working on the third item which is regarding the United States Bureau of Reclamation Region 8, coordinating with them on the six wells that were drilled in the 1990’s. We roughly have 160 monitoring wells in the monitoring well program. 

Next is an update on the Configuration Management Plan (CMP). We had a conference call with  the Resource Manager and the Desert Resources Institute (DRI) on December 5th to discuss configuration items on model revisions. On December 15th we had a team meeting with the Technical Modeling Group to review these configuration items and the recommendations for revision to the model update. The Configuration Management Plan’s 2023 timeline is pretty rigorous because we want to have a functioning calibrated model and future baseline model completed by the end of 2023 so that in early 2024 we will be doing modeling scenarios for the 5 year Groundwater Sustainability Plan update.

“One of the configuration items is how evaporation takes place on a wet playa. 

“As to the sub-flow from the Rose Valley into the Indian Wells Valley, the GA approved the cooperative agreement. In addition the GA signed the lease agreement with  California State Lands Commission in November. They arranged to sign this agreement, once that is in place we will be able to evaluate those existing sawmill wells and start monitoring groundwater levels in these wells. We will be completing the drilling site contract once the agreement is signed. We are expecting to start drilling in late February 2023.”

During the manager’s report, Keefer, said, “We have a request from Inyo County to basically approve a well permit for a residential well. Inyo County asked me to look at an application for a residential well. We will be reviewing that, providing a form back to them.”

Steve Johnson spoke to the evaluation of the well at Heritage Village. 

During public comment, Larry Mead, Ridgecrest resident, said “I’m very concerned about the replacement well thing. I think that you guys need to be very very careful with Inyo County. There is a well up there that was a replacement well when they widened the freeway, the guy just stuck a piece of pipe in the ground. Then he moved the house. There are abandoned wells that have not been used in years and years and we need to give the trust from you to the public that the wells have been cameraed and that you know what is wrong with them and relay that information to the public.

“Now as to the Heritage Village well issue. There are fees collected by the Homeowners Association, they are supposed to be taking care of the well and the landscaping. I don’t think the money was intended under the past leadership of the GA to be used for entities that collect fees, especially that collect fees for landscaping, then you’re going to give them money to drill a well. It’s just not right unless you guys get somebody out there to do your due diligence and treat the public fairly on this GA.”