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Water main subject at City Council meeting

By Susan Read News Review Staff Writer–

The April 19, 2023, Ridgecrest City Council meeting was primarily focused on the number one topic of the community: water. Council Member Scott Hayman opened the discussion/action portion of the meeting with a report from the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (IWVGA). The GA reported that it would be seeing new auditors following its recent financial audit.

With the high amount of rain and snowpack this year, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) will release water over time at five points in the IWV groundwater basin due to the overcapacity in the aqueduct and to control flooding. Four points include Freeman Gulch, Birch Springs, Grapevine Canyon, and Dixie Wash. In addition to the water capacity, City Manager Ron Strand said, “The release will help to preserve the dust mitigation system on Owens Lake.”

Where is the released water going? The released water will mostly evaporate and will not reach the basin from which the valley draws its water, but Hayman states that the IWV Water District is monitoring and gathering data. “An increase in water in one wet year only provides short-term benefits. The effect on the groundwater level itself isn’t helping California that dramatically. It will take many years to affect the groundwater.”

Mayor Eric Bruen asked if there was any positive impact from the rise of the reservoir. Hayman remarked that Bakersfield would be happy to have more storage, but it doesn’t benefit the IWV directly. Bruen responded with enthusiasm. “I’m just excited to see Lake Isabella be Lake Isabella again!”

City Manager Strand reported regarding the replacement wastewater plant that the application process is moving forward. The Council approved a resolution authorizing Strand to sign and file a financial assistance application and subsequent agreements with the California State Water Resources Control Board for the plant. The city was awarded 2.5 million dollars for this year’s budget from the 2022 State Budget Act toward the planning, design, and construction of the new plant. Strand said he expects to bring the 30 percent design to the second June city council meeting. The design should reach 100 percent, and the project be shovel-ready by June 2024.

In other city news, Strand said the second Pool Town Hall meeting would hopefully be held on May 2, 2023, with some preliminary drawings. Mayor Bruen encouraged the public to attend the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast on May 4, 2023, at Desert Christian Center beginning at 6:00 a.m. The cost per person is $8.00. Ridgecrest’s mayor annually hosts the breakfast with speakers in conjunction with the National Day of Prayer.

The next Ridgecrest City Council meetings will be on the first and third Wednesdays of May at 6 p.m. The public is welcome to attend in person, watch the live stream from the city’s web page, or view the proceedings on YouTube afterward.