In its latest taxpayer-funded, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (IWVGA) heralds its lobbying efforts in support of Assembly Bill 779. In its self-serving piece, the IWVGA paints itself as a champion for small farmers and as an advocate for fairness and due process.
That’s a rich irony, considering IWVGA’s abusive treatment of small farmers and disadvantaged communities under the guise of implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The irony becomes hypocrisy when weighing the IWVGA’s words against its actions.
Despite paying lip service to small farmers in its editorial, the IWVGA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan (“GSP”) denies small farmers any permanent allocation of groundwater and deems small farmers’ water rights “inferior” to the “superior” water rights held by IWVGA member agencies. The IWVGA’s abuse of small farmers didn’t stop there. In fall 2020, the IWVGA asked small farmers to waive “any and all claims” against the IWVGA and its member agencies as a condition of receiving a meager temporary share of a “Transient Pool” of groundwater—sufficient only for a few years of pumping before the IWVGA’s exorbitant fees kick in ($2130 per acre-foot of groundwater) and drive small farmers to bankruptcy. Most would call this bullying, not due process.
The IWVGA’s treatment of disadvantaged communities has perhaps been worse. The IWVGA has sued both Inyokern Community Services District, the public water supplier for Inyokern, and Searles Valley Minerals, the primary employer in Trona. The IWVGA’s suits seek to force payment of its targeted and punitive fees, ignoring the financial realities and other challenges faced by these already disadvantaged communities.
Any honest observer can see the significant disparity between the IWVGA’s rhetoric in support of AB 779 and its actions.
Along with others during the legislative process, Mojave Pistachios expressed genuine concerns about the potential negative consequences of AB 779. Our opposition does not reflect a disregard for sustainable water management or fairness. Instead, it highlights the need for a balanced approach that considers the unique challenges and contributions of all stakeholders.
The governor aims to address critical water management issues with his signature of AB 779, but it is essential to weigh its potential impacts carefully. Rather than pitting different groups against each other, as the IWVGA has done, it is crucial to foster dialogue and collaboration to find sustainable groundwater solutions that benefit everyone in our community.