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IWVWD Director Chuck Griffin / Laura Austin Photo

IWVWD Board pushes GA for cost analysis on pipeline project

By Patricia Farris News Review Publisher–  At the Indian Wells Valley Water District board meeting on August 14, the importance of the Communication and Engagement Plan (CEP) was discussed in detail.

Chuck Griffin, Groundwater Authority (GA) board member representing the Indian Wells Valley Water District, again brought up to the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (IWVGA) board the importance of more public input. He said he would like to see the meeting times change and that public speaking time not be limited to 3 minutes but rather 5 minutes. “I don’t believe I was heard or listened to,” he said, “But I will continue to fight for that. Hopefully, they will make some changes. I do not feel like I have the support of any of the board members. The public has been supportive expressing to me that the GA board does not want to hear from the public.”

Griffin announced that the regular GA meeting had been rescheduled for August 23rd at 11 am for an open session, with the Scoping Meeting later that evening. Jim Worth,  legal counsel for the Water District, said the Scoping Meeting pertained to the GA’s preparation of a draft of the Environmental Impact Report for the imported pipeline Antelope Valley East Kern(AVEK) system. That meeting is on August 23rd at 5:30 at City Hall.

Griffin brought up that the District did write a letter to the GA. “We have some specific questions that we would like answered about the pipeline costs, and we would like some answers.”

Board member Ron Kicinski, vice president of the board, said that a letter was sent out by Don Zdeba, the former general manager of the district. Zdeba was assisted in putting together the letter by our consulting staff. It was addressed to Carol Keefer, the IWVGA General Manager, with a copy to Steve Johnson. It is a lengthy letter that relates to concerns that the Water District has about being connected to this pipeline. The letter lays out all the concerns of the board, the staff, and engineering. Kicinski said, “We need answers to these questions, most of which are taken up with the initial costs. It is a 4-page document that will be posted on the District’s website”. He said, “This pipeline connection has serious costs on how we operate. The letter is asking a lot of questions that we need answers to before the board can move forward with any kind of determination.”

Board member Stan Rajtora noted it is a well-written letter. He said, “It turns out that the Department of Water Resources (DWR) said we need to have an updated Communication and Engagement Plan (CEP). It was kind of like nobody else on the board understood that it was a requirement. The thing that struck me is that one of the important aspects is the updating of the CEP which is an integrated schedule of the project performance and cost. One of the comments from the GA side was, ‘Some of the projects are just too complex to have a schedule,’ which, of course, is just the opposite of what we should have. If we have a more complex problem, the more you need a schedule, the more you need a plan. That is Project Management 101. I think Chuck is the only one on the whole board that had any understanding of a real Project Management Plan (PMP). We have to keep plugging, and hopefully, they will eventually start to listen.”

Board member St Amand said, “There are some serious challenges with accepting water from the proposed pipeline. We have to have questions answered before we can make appropriate determinations as to whether or not the board can support the project. We cannot move forward until these questions are answered.”

Judy Decker / Laura Austin Photo

During public comment Judi Decker, vice chair of the Policy Advisory Committee (PAC), said, “The PAC works fairly diligently on all of the assignments, including the CEP.” She said, “I agree with you, Chuck; it was very disappointing that they brushed off the plan like they would a bothersome fly.

“We have an interesting collection of board members on the GA board. We have a Supervisor who does not live here, we have a Supervisor from San Bernardino County whom we have never seen, and we have Mr. Valejo from Inyo County who comes once in a while and considers most of what you say Chuck as bothersome. Then we have Mr. Hayman, who just got reelected, so he doesn’t have to worry for another three years; that’s how I view him. I’m concerned about the CEP.”

Decker said, “If you recall, in the beginning, the Navy representative was Commander Longbottom, who immediately said the organization needed a Plan Of Action and Milestone (POAM). Most did not understand what it was, except for those people who were retired or were defense employees. They knew exactly what it was.

“In that original timeframe, Peter Brown was your representative. At every meeting, he piped up and said, ‘When are we going to approve of the POAM?’ Seven years later, we do not have one. We are spending, with that organization, millions of taxpayer dollars along with millions by now of Water District customers’ money.

“I think the only thing to do is to keep pushing for the CEP. Some of the things that Keefer stated they would not do I agree with. I’m concerned that they are going to write white papers and fact sheets, and they will be writing things that no one will be able to read or view ahead of time and that they will present incorrect information. It is critical that the public get the proper information of the hydrology of this basin as well as the details of being a domestic well owner, as well as one of the other kinds of well owners.”

Regarding the pipeline, Decker said, “I am concerned that we are going to have this multi-million dollar pipeline from Cal City to Ridgecrest that does not have anything in it. If you have observed, we used to have on the closed session agenda Jackson Ranch negotiations, which was taken off the agenda several months ago and removed by Mr. Lemieux, legal counsel for the IWGA. So where is the water going to come from that is to go into that pipeline?”

Board member St Armand said someone had asked him about a schedule and was told that the project was too complicated to have a schedule. “That is just an indication that they do not understand the project properly. There are any number of ways to arrive at a schedule; even if they are making wild guesses, they can adjust them as they go along. They really need to pause and come up with a better understanding of what they  need to do before they move on.”

Board President Mallory Boyd said, “I’m at a loss as to how you could move forward without a budget to try to get something done without knowing what step A and step B are.”

St Amand said, “Give us the money, we will start working, and we will tell you how long it is going to take that is not an acceptable bid.”

Griffin said, “I asked for a project schedule of values which is the same as  POAM. We should lay out a schedule of values and what it is going to cost. This is part of the project. Put it out there on the board, it is not that hard of a process to do.”

Regarding the letter from to board to the GA, the board is asking for a comprehensive cost estimate covering the water rights purchase and capital cost of the Project. According to the current letter of intent that is in place per the Dudley Ridge Water website, the Authority is to purchase 750 Acre Feet per Year (AFY)  at a total cost of $6,396,000.

The letter to the GA requests the annual operating costs and what they would be and the future capital costs and operating costs.

Be reminded that this complete document is published on the IWVWD website.