Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Stop 'pandering to pumpers'


Last updated 3/10/2016 at 10:47am

In September James Seley (Seley Farms) sent a letter purportedly “on behalf of the Agricultural Alliance for Water and Resource Education (AAWARE)” to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). It protested DWR’s inclusion of the Borrego Basin in a list of critically overdrafted groundwater basins in California and demanded its removal from the list because “publicly available Basin data does not support” such designation.

Acting with uncharacteristic alacrity, however, DWR determined there is enough sound evidence to prove that the Basin is critically overdrafted and Seley’s letter provided no evidence justifying a change in designation. AAWARE is a mutual benefit corporation formed in 2003 by growers in the Borrego Valley for the sole purpose of protecting member’s interest in unlimited free groundwater.

For a brief period recently, it sought to masquerade as a cooperative member of the pumper-dominated Borrego Water Coalition (BWC), ostensibly working to solve the Valley’s increasingly grave groundwater problem. It has now dropped all pretense of being a responsible corporate citizen and is again blatantly prosecuting the same obstructive 3-D strategy (Deny, Deceive, and Delay) to prevent action on the overdraft that it actively pursued for most of its ignoble history. Seley’s letter is nothing but a deceitful, ham-handed attempt to escape requirements of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) applicable specifically to basins designated as critical by the State and intended to bring groundwater pumping into balance with recharge. Achieving that goal in the Borrego Basin requires eliminating agriculture from the valley.

AAWARE, therefore, is again seeking to defend the interest of its twenty or so members at the expense of all others dependent upon Borrego’s sole-source aquifer. AAWARE’s decision to unfurl its true colors now was likely prompted by concerns over passage of bills by California legislature that amend SGMA to provide expansive new authority over groundwater extractions to the State.

What should – and but for the pusillanimity of the BWD Board would – be of more concern to pumpers in the valley, however, are concurrent bills that streamline groundwater adjudication in California (AB1390 & SB226). SGMA explicitly avoided clarifying or defining pumper’s rights in a groundwater basin, leaving the common law process of basin adjudication as the default mechanism for doing so. AB 1390 expedites adjudications. SB 226 simplifies adjudication by reconciling potential conflicts between and individual rights focused adjudication process and the sustainability-focused SGMA.

It makes clear that the State may intervene in groundwater adjudications to ensure the interest of SGMA are given adequate weight, so the State will probably become involved in future adjudications to assure a sustainable outcome. In light of the above the Borrego Water District board must: admit the obvious fact that AAWARE never was, nor will be, a trustworthy partner in solving the valley’s serious groundwater problem and stop pandering to pumpers; dissolve the dysfunctional BWC over which AAWARE and others of their ilk hold sway’ and seize the opportunity afforded by new legislation to end the critical overdraft of Borrego’s sole-source aquifer once and for all by adjudicating the basin forthwith.



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