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District addresses viability of importing water

 By Patricia Farris News Review Publisher– In the opening of the Indian Wells Valley Water District (IWVWD) Board meeting on Tuesday, October 11, Travis Reed thanked the Board for giving him the opportunity to work with the District. Reed was recently hired by the District to fill the position of Water District Manager replacing Don Zdeba who is retiring. They reported that the  Board has received only one application to fill the Board vacancy due to the recent death of Director Chuck Cordell. The application received was from former Board member Ron Kicinski. Kicinski addressed the Board, first sharing his grief of the loss of Cordell who he referred to as his good friend. He said he appreciated the good work that he had done with the Board. He stated that he understands what is going on with the water issues having kept track of the concerns. He said he could step into the role and start running right away. “I have missed working with the Board and the staff. I hope you will consider me.”  

   Director Mallory Boyd said, “Given the challenges we face, I am glad that Kicinski has stepped up to the plate.” He feels he will be a fine candidate. “He one of the most knowledgeable people of water in the Valley. I have seen your work before as the Director of the Desert Empire Fairgrounds Board of Directors, where you were able to turn that organization around.”

Director Griffin made a motion that Kicinski be approved to fill the vacancy on the Board. The motion passed unanimously.

Ron Kicinski

Kicinski took the oath of office that was administered by Zdeba and was immediately seated on the dais.

A major portion of the meeting was taken up by a concern brought to the attention of the Board by Director Kicinski. “Something I have asked many times, both in the Board meetings here, at the City, and by some of the candidates, the question, ‘Has anybody taken this pipeline, bullet pipeline, as I call it, this whole project from start to finish getting down to the bottom line of what it is going to cost the ratepayers? Obviously the ratepayers will be paying whatever is going on. Is there something  that says, ‘If we do this and borrow the money, or borrow for half of it…’ As well as with the cost of the water, the operation, the electricity, and everything, did they say to the public, ‘In order to get your support you need to understand that you are going to spend X amount of dollars per month, just for this.’ I can tell you that I have done some qualitative estimates and it will be about $600 per month (per ratepayer). I’m not sure if that is true, but I have people calling me asking what the cost is going to be if they put this pipeline through. Is there anybody that has done that or even contemplated doing it? Maybe some of the 7.6 million dollars can be used to do some of this.”

Director Rajtora responded, “It is possible that some of that 7.6 million will be used for that. I have not seen a list of tasks, nor have I seen a schedule for that. My personal opinion is that there has been as much stuff postponed and delayed for the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) update. That is to come out in 2025. These are a lot of the things that are not being done now. I have seen no updates regarding a real plan to put the whole thing together in terms of being able to get better numbers for the amount it is going to cost each individual. The other issue is, ‘Who is going to pay it?’ At this point we do not have the total number of dollars it is going to cost and we don’t know where the money is coming from. There are still people who think that it is magically going to come from McCarthy or the Navy or somebody might throw a lot of money at this. I don’t think we should count on that before committing to the project. I think we need to know what we are doing before committing to the project. That is one of the reasons that I am not optimistic about the 750-acre feet of water procurement. We still do not know how we are going to get it here. It is the total cost we are really concerned about.”

Kicinski said, “It could be $600 per month above your current water bill. In my opinion, that will pretty much destroy this community.” He offered he is willing to work with  Director Boyd to secure someone in the Groundwater Authority (GA) who will get someone assigned to do that.

Rajtora said, “I’ve been trying to get a plan with a schedule and a budget for the GSP update for months and months.

“There is going to be an election soon and maybe that attitude will change and we will get a project plan. We need to work on that.”

Kicinski said, “Since they are spending some of the replacement fee for just about anything, is it possible to say, ‘Let’s spend some of this to get another consultant so we can get someone who can put together this package.’  I’m talking about not just the pipeline, but the whole package. The other thing that worries me is that it is like putting the cart before the horse. We have no idea what the pipeline is going to cost, how it is going to be operated, who is going to pay for it, or whether we can pass the legal requirements of getting through the desert. We are buying water, to me, that is a signal, some kind of social signal. See we are making progress, buying water, but we have no way of getting it here.”

Rajtora said, “One of the corrective actions that came out of the Department of Water Resources (DWR) regarding our GSP was that the imported water project was not definite enough to be able to tell whether or not it would actually be a viable project. One of the issues brought up was ‘Are you really going to be able to buy it?’ Obviously, right away the mentality was we better go buy some water, otherwise… The DWR made a point of saying, ‘In our last annual report we have not made any progress toward that. It is not illogical that they would if their focus really is to import water. They are probably going to do whatever will make the DWR happy.”

Regarding Kicinski’s comment, Zdeba said, “It is kind of a chicken or egg argument and the comment has been made that you have to have the water before you get the pipeline because nobody is going to invest in the pipeline if you don’t have an asset to put in it. With regard to that water purchase, if you have the water, it can be considered an asset. If you don’t have the water, it is unfortunate. You can always sell an asset. So I think that it is logical to be pursuing the water before building a pipeline.”

President of the Board St. Amand said, “Any engineering company that is going to do a project of this sort has an obligation to undergo an initial planning session whereby they identify the right tools and then provide an estimate of cost and the time it is going to take. I have not seen that yet, that should be accomplished so the GA Board can decide whether this is financially possible for the Valley to sustain such a system. I think that is what we are liking to see from the GA. That needs to be provided so people can make a reasonable decision.”

Legal Counsel Jim Worth said, “We can raise that with the GA during the next meeting. We should raise the issue with the GA before we start doing our own homework. Let them have the first shot at it. We should at least ask them first.”

St. Amand requested Rajtora, who serves on the GA Board, “Can you ask them to create a study of the cost and the time it is going to take?”

Rajtora replied, “I am always willing to put something on the agenda, but the question is whether we are going to be able to do that. We have not been successful to date.”

St. Amand responded, “If that does not work, we need to come up internally with an order of magnitude estimate for the project.”

A detailed report of the recent September GA meeting was also given by Rajtora, but due to space constraints, it will appear in next week’s edition of the News Review. To review previous actions of the IWVWD Board, go to