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IWV Groundwater Authority discusses water rights litigation

By Patricia Farris News Review Publisher–
At the March 29 Indian Wells Groundwater Authority meeting, legal council Phil Hall gave a legal reportable action from a closed session that related to the water rights litigation. He stated, “One thing that should come across to everybody who is in this Basin and is pumping water, the judge did not entertain a setting in motion in the future to determine excluding those pumping small amounts of water.

Phill Hall

“This means there will be no exclusion for those to the litigation. This means if you are not in the litigation right now, if you do not have an attorney, and if you are not at the table, your rights will be determined by the court if you are not there. So without any exception of those from the adjudication, which the Water District has made clear, they are not going to exempt anybody, your water rights will be determined, and the County of Kern, Groundwater Authority, and the City of Ridgecrest cannot step into your shoes and protect your water rights.

“You will be representing yourself, your own attorney, or whatever means you have to get into that with the class counsel not being appointed. Your water rights are going to be determined in this adjudication; they will be determined without you there if you do not step in now. So, I believe this answers for those that have yet to be served or have more recently been served within about 60 days or probably about 45 days from now.

“You should really start looking into what your position is going to be and how you wish to look forward if you are a small well owner that has not been into the case yet.”

Director Chuck Griffin, representing the Water District, said, “I would like to follow up on Mr Hall’s comments. The Water District has no intention of affecting any small pumpers’ water rights. I want to make sure that is out there. We want to make sure that the small pumpers are protected. We have always had a concern for them, and we want to ensure that is in place. That is where we’re moving forward.

“Also, I would like to make a comment on a press release that was issued yesterday that reflects that the Water District is somehow trying to affect the Navy’s right or could reduce the Navy’s right to pump water.

“We do not in any way want to do that, as stated in court by our attorney, that whatever the Navy’s water right is, that’s what it will be. That is what we want it to be, we want to make sure that the Navy has the right to pump water. I want to make that very clear that it’s not the intention of the District to take any pumping from the Navy or small pumpers, and I would request that this board consider removing that letter because several members of the Water District Board are Department of Defense and have been there for many years. We have more than 100 years of military experience working on this base on our board, that I feel we would be offended by a letter saying that we are trying to assault the United States Navy in any way or take their water rights away, or reduce their water rights. We want to work together, not put stuff out in opposition in any way. That is not what we are after.

“We just want to know what allocation the Navy needs and how much water they need to use for now and in the future to make sure that the mission at China Lake is successful. That’s what we want to know and that is the first step.”

Director Scott Hayman said, “I appreciate your comments, Mr. Griffin, regarding not wanting to take the diminimus users’ water. While I hear you and heard the Water District state that that’s not our intent, I see no objective data being printed in the courts or public or factual statements or letters that would solidify that or confirm it. So that’s where it stands. Talk is talk, but I would like to see what is factual.”

Griffin responded, “I will make sure that we have that on next week’s agenda for next Monday night, so it’s stated that we do not want to take anybody’s water rights in public with a Board vote. So I’ll make sure that it’s out there for you.”

Josh Nugent, representing Mojave Pistachio, said, “I just want to make a generally positive statement to say that we come from a three-generation family in the Navy; myself, my grandpa was in the Navy, he was in the Korean war, he was part of a vehicle recovery crew in Texas. Planes would go out on test missions. They would crash, and he would help bring them back in like a mechanic. My uncle was part of the development of some of the fly-by-wire early cruise missiles. He somehow worked at NAWS on some projects. My cousin Sarah was a communications officer who served on a carrier that was part of the Indonesian rescue operation. I realize this is sort of tangentially related to the item on the agenda. Still, I just wanted to say in general that Mojave Pistachio also definitely supports the mission of the Navy.”

Director Griffin said regarding the report from Stetson, “I just want to make a comment. I will be abstaining from voting on it due to litigation. But I do want to make a statement that I do not think that the most up-to-date data was used in this report, so I would sure like to see us use the updated source of the new evidence that comes into play.”

There was some discussion on how best to meet funding requests for shallow well mitigation with reference to the Halpin and Beverly wells. Also, the water managers report from Stetson included updates on the Imported Water Pipeline Project.

All the GA meetings are streamed live at https://ridgecrest-ca.cov369/Watch also on YouTube and at https://iwvga.org/iwvga-meetings