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Indian Wells Valley Board member Chuck Griffin / Laura Austin Photo

Water District Board hears reports on DWR findings and Heritage Village well concerns

By Pat Farris News Review Publisher– 

At the Indian Wells Valley Water District Board meeting on February 13, Lisa Beutler and Shaela Noble, facilitators for The Department of Water Resources (DWR), provided a detailed report and overview of what has been done so far and what the next steps are going to be.

The facilitators for DWR started working here in April 2022 at the request of the Water District. The purpose was to see what they could do best with the different options related to water so the community could move forward.

One of the first things they did was hold a stakeholder assessment. They interviewed 48 participants and received 137 survey responses.

The facilitators reported that at the October 4, 2022 workshop, there was a consensus that there was a need for better communication with the IWV Groundwater Authority (GA). Many expressed high-level concerns regarding transparency from the GA. Also concerns with equity issues from the GA regarding Trona and the Inyokern Community Services District (CSD). It was noted that they were particularly hard hit. 

Regarding legislative and technical issues, there needs to be transparency and trust, the facilitators said.  They found that the stakeholders believe the GA needs to engage all groundwater users to identify the problems and provide solutions. “The public needs to be fully engaged with how the decisions are made and that fairness is shown, which is currently not the case.”

Chuck Griffin, the Water Districts’ new representative on the GA Board, reported on the previous GA meeting. He said, “The Heritage Village well issue was postponed in order to give time for the Heritage Village to come back and the GA Board members to do some research. I will be doing some research, but I will ask for the Board’s support in bringing the Kreiger and Stewart Engineering Consultants to the next month’s meeting and having them give their interpretation of the report that they wrote.”

“I think I did a good enough job defending it, but I would like it to be from our engineers. I sincerely do not think that the GA should be paying for that well. What was reported at the GA meeting was that the 18-foot decline in the water over 30 years was what contributed to the well going dry, and that’s why it was not pumping. I asserted that I felt it was not an issue with that but a problem with the well casing. The well had met its life, and it was expected to work for 30 years, and it did. I felt it would be a bad precedent moving forward. I expressed my opinion and what I had previously learned, but I was questioned if I had the current background to make those comments. I responded, ‘That’s what I do.’ But I would like the engineers that we have on staff to defend me.”

“They did not camera the well or anything else. I posed the question, ‘Why would we not camera a well if we are going to look at replacing it – if they had a problem, they should camera all wells, so we have some information on what happened to the well and what caused it to go down.’

“It is in the GA policy that the well owner does the maintenance on their well, and we do not have any of that information to prove that it was ever maintained or what happened. The report basically said that the draw down on the old well was 100 feet or so, and they turned the pump on, and it would lose head, so they put a new pump in, lowered it a few feet, and turned it on, and it would lose head. It is pretty simple. The groundwater static is above the perforations in the casing by 168 feet. There is plenty of water there. It is just not getting into the pipe. The perforations are either plugged or damaged. So, whatever made it into the pipe when it was turned on, it sucks out, the pipe emptied, and it would take time for it to build up instead of a steady flow of water, like on a new well. They drilled a new well, and the drawdown was less than two feet. So it is simply that it was not a problem with the well going dry. There was plenty of water. That’s the message that I do want to get out, that it was not that the well went dry, so we are having to replace it. If someone’s well is impacted, a small pumper, it’s a homeowner’s well, and that well is impacted; we need to help navigate that. That is not the case here.”

 Board member Ron Kicinski added, “This is a private irrigation landscaping well, not potable water. I feel that in spending $114,000, we have people out there that need that more.” 

The Board agreed to have Kreiger and Stewart at the next meeting.

Regarding the Annual Report that Stan Rajtora, former GA Board representative, had requested for the last two years, he had asked to please let the Water Board review it and make comments. Griffin said, “they did let us make comments this year. We did not get the report until Sunday afternoon, so I requested some time since it is not due until April 1st. I would like our engineers and consultant Tim Parker to review this and comment and see if those comments are included in the report.” 

Most of the Board supported this request and gave us this month to review it. 

Rajorta stated, “the annual report did continue to say there was an increase in water storage in the El Paso area over the last three years; because they don’t have data for the interim years, they averaged it over three years. Over these three years, the average increase is about 2,400-acre-feet per year. This is a positive data point, he said. I think we need to continue our efforts in trying to push for exploration as well as well pumping testing.”

Another item in actions taken at the GA meeting, Griffin reported that in closed session, Legal Council Keith Lemieux announced that they (GA) had joined a Defense agreement with the U.S. Navy. 

Jim Worth Legal Council for the Water District announced that there was nothing new to report on the Comprehensive Adjudication. He said the next Comprehensive Adjudication management conference would be on March 17, after which he will have a better report.