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Water Board mourns loss of board member

By Patricia Farris News Review Publisher– 

At the Indian Wells Valley Water District (IWVWD)  Regular Board meeting on September 12 noticeably absent from the dais was Chuck Cordell, longstanding director for the Board having served for ten years. Condolences were offered to the Cordell family from the Board by President David St Amand who said, “He was an excellent member of the Board and he will be greatly missed.” 

   Requirements on filling the vacancy were explained by Legal Counsel Jim Worth. He prefaced his remarks by saying, “We certainly do miss him.” Concerning the procedures, the County must be notified within 15 days of the vacancy of the Board member and the Board has 60 days from the date of the vacancy in which to select a new director. “Since the vacancy occurred closer than 130 days until the next election the person appointed will fill out Chuck’s term,” said Worth. “About 15 days before the Board is going to make an appointment you will see who is interested. Then after the Board makes an appointment the County will be notified.” 

   Following Worth’s explanation of the process for filling a vacancy, Board Member Stan Rajtora was asked to report on the last Board meeting of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (GA). Rajtora sits on both Boards. He reported that Stetson Engineering was authorized to prepare a Water Recycling Title 16 feasibility study for the Bureau of Reclamation at the Special Meeting held on July 22. Rajtora stated, “The Water District needs to keep track of what is going on here. We do not want the GA making assumptions without our input.” He noted on a related issue, “The existing recycling study report has not been released. There is a critical need for the Water District to have continual communication with the GA at the staff level in regards to the ongoing water recycling project. We want to make sure that we really follow-up on this. Those recycled water acre feet could really be important to us.”

  At the July 13 GA Board Meeting a Letter of Intent was approved to purchase 750 acres of Table A Entitlement for 6.4 million dollars. Rajtora explained, “To be clear this is not the actual purchase contract; it is an offer to purchase the water. Multiple things need to fall in line before that actual purchase is accomplished. This includes that an environmental review must be approved. So,” he said, “Who knows what is really going to happen? Water is a very critical issue in California and we never know what is going to happen. The process could take up to six to twelve months. There is also, by the way, a $2 million down payment required which is refundable only in a very limited set of conditions. We need to be mindful of that.”

   Next Rajtora reported on the Imported Water Pipeline Alignment Study which is under way. “Provost and Pritchard was the contract awardee. This is another area we need to be sure that we keep in good communication between the District and the GA. There was a meeting scheduled for us to talk to them, which is good. We want to make sure it is not a one-way communication. We need to understand what is happening and how it is going to benefit us. And we must provide input. It cannot be just a one-way communication. We need to get information so we can evaluate what is going on.”

   The Rose Valley sub-flow monitoring effort is scheduled to start this fall. 

   In terms of the financial activity, “The Financial Advisor has recommended that the imported water bonding be privately offered bonds, so nothing has changed there. Wulff Hanson, Financial Consultant for the GA, was originally expecting to provide the Board with a firm commitment last August. Obviously, that did not happen. I’m not aware of a new date or when we expect that to happen. It could still be weeks or months away because of all the things that have to come in line before anything can happen.

   I asked General Water Manager Carol Keefer for a statement regarding the transferring of the GA financial system to the new system. Early on this fiscal year we talked about transferring that. We have not had any status of any updates. According to Keefer, it is in process but she could not give a date for when the official transfer was going to happen.”

   Under Project Activities Concerns, State Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) has established six primary sustainability indicators. The most critical indicator is the reduction of groundwater in storage. “It is sort of an overarching for all of the various issues of all the remaining five indicators. The GA is yet to be able to quantify a methodology to measure the change to groundwater and storage. The ability to measure groundwater and storage remains my primary concern. I will be watching this very closely. Stetson has reportedly stated that new approach will be released to the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) at the end of summer. That should be going to the TAC very soon. At the upcoming GA meeting we will be releasing the schedule for release of the next Annual Report. The validity of any schedule, regardless of what it is, going to be dependent upon the progress that is being made. Regarding measuring the change to groundwater in storage. This is going to be a topic for the upcoming Wednesday, September 14, meeting.”

   Water District General Manager Don Zdeba reported on a recent meeting with Provost and Pritchard. Chuck Davis, of Provost and Pritchard, arranged for a web board meeting on Wednesday. Davis originally said there were two purposes. One was to find out the District’s projection for pumping going all the way to 2070. Also to discuss connection points with the District’s system. One of the outcomes that was made very clear to Provost and Pritchard that the District has no interest in making a direct connection to our system. There are several concerns; one of which is just water quality issues. “I imagine they will take that discussion to Stetson and the GA. We were very clear, we stated several times that we do not want a direct connection to our system,” said Zdeba.

   “They also talked about doing a site visit on September 23. The plan is to take a look at the area, the route for the pipe. I guess the scope of the project is to look at connection points. It has been made very clear that we do not want them to make connection.”

   Although a report on the Comprehensive Adjudication was on the agenda, Worth said at this time there is nothing new to report.