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Water District pushes GA for the cost of projected pipeline

By Patricia Farris, News Review Publisher– During the week of August 21 through August 25, there were a couple of important meetings concerning water issues. The News Review feels obligated to help the public understand what the IWVGA is proposing to do to “Solve” the water problems in the Valley.  We have provided you with some of the conversations of the GA meeting and the GA’s Scoping meeting, hoping that will give a glimpse into the workings of these crucial meetings. Kelly German of Stutzman Public Affairs also provided a press release on behalf of Mojave Pistachios. If you have questions or comments after reading the following excerpts, please address them to the News Review.

  At the August 23rd Indian Wells Valley Ground Water Authority  (IWVGA) meeting, Board Member Chuck Griffin, representing the IWV Water District, brought some pressing issues to the board’s attention. He stressed the importance of being more specific on the procedure and the cost analysis for importing water through the proposed pipeline to this basin. He requested that the Board table agenda items 10, 11, and 12, citing, “There are too many unknowns.” Agenda items 10, 11, and 12 read as follows: 10. Approval of change in scope of work and budget for a contract with Provost  & Pritchard Consulting Group for CEQA/NEPA documents and permit documentation services for the imported water pipeline. 11. Approval of change in scope of work and budget for a contract with Provost & Pritchard Consulting Group for design services for the imported water pipeline. 12. Approval of change in scope of work and budget for contract with Overland, Pacific, and Cutler, LLC for right-of-way and parcel acquisition services for the imported water pipeline.

Director Chuck Griffin / Laura Austin Photo

Griffin noted that the Water District had sent a letter to the GA Board on August 9, requesting clarification during our due diligence. “I think it’s important that the district is on board with this project, but right now, I cannot say that the district is on board since there are so many unknowns.” The District’s letter requests from the GA clarification on several items. “Until we get those clarifications, we cannot vote on even one item on this project. We do not know the cost of treatment. Who is going to run the project?  We do not know all of the other costs that are out there. Is the water compatible that we’re going to get? Without the Water District having the system to tie into, what are we going to do with it?

“We need to be on board, but we need these answers. We don’t know where we’re going to flush this pipeline. We are talking about a lot of water. None of these questions have been answered. We would like these answers so we can say we’re on board. We are looking at another half a million dollars plus in change orders. Where is that money going to come from, the ratepayers? The ratepayers to date are the only ones that have paid the Replenishment Fee. We have paid out 9 million dollars with ratepayers’ money with nothing to show for it. We need to justify it to our ratepayers. That’s why I’m asking that we table this until we get the answers, or I would have to vote no on these items.”

Keith Lemieux, legal counsel for the GA / Laura Austin Photo

Keith Lemieux, legal counsel for the GA, said, “The staff is ready to send out a letter in response to the letter sent out by the district staff. That should be going out this week. I can preview some of it for you. There are a lot of questions that we are being asked that can only be answered after we do the work that is currently being contemplated here. You have put us in an impossible position. We need to move forward in order to get those answers.”

Griffin: “I disagree with that; knowing how a project works and being in construction, there are a lot of questions we can get answered without doing technical borings and stuff like that. This would be later down the road for whoever is doing the excavation. So they need to know the soil type if they’re going to have shoring material. What we need to know is who is going to run the facility. Is the District going to be responsible for the 50 miles of pipeline? These are costs that we need to know so we know if we’re going to do that or not do it. Is the GA going to put together a crew that is going to run that pipeline and maintain it? Is Antelope Valley East Kern (AVEK) going to maintain it?”

Lemieux responded, “The current plan is for the GA to maintain it.” Board member John Vallejo asked, “Is it incorrect to say that regardless of who runs it, the GA is going to have to handle that cost, and that cost will go to water users in the basin? “ Lemieux responded, “One way or the other, it will be a cost to the water users. I want to add something to put this in context. We’re trying to move forward to get answers to these questions, and that requires that we get access to the District property and get some basic information from the District. When Stetson asked for that, we were told no by the staff, that the board had directed that they not cooperate with our investigations and instead, we would be getting a letter. We got a letter from the staff that was asking questions that were essentially only answerable, having done the investigation. So, I hear that you are interested in getting answers, and we are too. Does that mean you’re going to cooperate going forward with letting us get the answers?”

Griffin responded, “I don’t think cooperate is the proper word. The statement was that we needed to know what the plans were by the GA. Where the GA was going to build a treatment facility or if they were going to put up a 1 million gallon tank. It’s not as simple as just running a pipeline and trying to distribute water.”

Lemieux: “I don’t want to put you on the spot, but I am trying to move it along. In short, you are saying you would like answers to the water quality, tie-in, and so on. We would like to provide these answers. We would need you to cooperate and get access to the District property and other information about the District’s water quality.”

Griffin: “Absolutely, the board has no such intention of hiding that information from you.“

Lemieux: “Can Steve enter the property next week?”

Griffin responded, “I don’t see a problem with that. We will have to discuss it with the full board.”

Lemieux: “That would be great. That would help us move it along. I appreciate that.”


At a recent Scoping Meeting on the Water Pipeline Project, there was an overview of the pipeline project. The project consists of a water pipeline 20”-24” in diameter that will connect to an AVEK facility in California City and transfer approximately 50 miles to the Indian Wells Valley Water District (IWVWD). The project includes three booster pump stations that will assist the water’s flow over the El Paso Mountains, a regulatory station, and an additional storage blending tank.

Mallory Boyd, President of the IWVWD Board of Directors, said, “We have not been provided with sufficient information from the GA to allow it to formulate the District’s position on the project as currently conceived.

“The District has a number of questions and concerns, specifically what will be passed on to the customers.”

Josh Nugent, Representative for Mojave Pistachios, told the facilitator for the meeting, “The proposed pipeline project is environmentally and financially unacceptable.

“The project will cost over 200 million dollars for the construction alone. Ridgecrest will probably have the designation as the least environmentally-friendly water in the State of California if the project goes through.”

Nugent added, “The Water District was told by the GA that they would be forced to pay and forced to connect.”


Kelly Garman, Consultant for Mojave Pistachios, said to the News Review, “I would like to draw your attention to a pressing matter concerning the actions of the IWVGA that demands public scrutiny. As you are aware, the Authority has proposed the development of the Imported Water Conveyance System Project (IWCSP). The IWVWD has written a most compelling letter to the Authority outlining several areas where the Authority has yet to demonstrate they have a full understanding of the costs associated with the project.”

In the letter from the IWVWD to the GA, the first paragraph states, “We understand that the purpose of the IWCSP is to augment the supply of water within the Indian Wells Valley by importing water from the State Water Project (SWP) via the AVEK Water Agency into the Indian Wells Valley District’s domestic water system; thus providing in-lieu groundwater replenishment by reducing the District’s groundwater extraction. As such, we believe that our participation in this Project is necessary for the Project’s success, especially with the direct connection to the District’s facilities currently being proposed. However, to date, the Board of Directors and other stakeholders have not been provided sufficient information from the Authority to allow it to formulate the District’s position on the Project as currently conceived.”

Regarding capital costs: According to the current letter of intent that is in place per Dudley Ridge Water District’s website, the Authority is to purchase 750-acre feet per year (AFY) of SWP Table A water allocation from Dudley Ridge at a cost of $8,528 per acre-foot (AF) for a total cost of $6,396,000.

The SWP is a variable water source that rarely provides 100% of the water allocations. The estimated long-term water allocation is approximately 42%, reducing the amount of the anticipated resulting “Letter of Intent” water allocation to 315 AFY. At this reduced rate, the Authority’s future delivery target of 6,431 AFY would require SWP Table A allocation of 15,312 AFY. Assuming these additional water allowances would be acquired at a cost similar to the Dudley Ridge “letter of intent” rate of $8,528 per AF, this would be a total cost of approximately $131 million.

The letter from the Water District to the GA is available on the IWVGA and IWVWD websites.