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WHAT NEXT... Borrego Water Situation


Last updated 12/3/2018 at 9:52am

With the defeat of Proposition 3 in our recent mid-term elections, at least one central question remains about how our community and the County will pay for farmland purchase and fallowing to bring our Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) into compliance by Jan. 2020. This and other questions were addressed at a recent public meeting.

Over 100 Borregans attended the Nov. 15 public meeting on water-related issues to be addressed in our forthcoming Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP), due for public release in Jan. 2019.

Elected officials and community stakeholder representatives were also present as BWD General Manager Geoff Poole and GSP consultant Rachel Ralston of LaSar Development presented summaries and later fielded questions from the audience, including members of the Latino community.

“We are here to listen,” said Poole in his opening remarks, followed up later by BWD Board Director Harry Ehrlich, saying, “We will be basing the recommended GSP programs, policies, and actions not on politics or personal preference, but on the law, the facts, and a sense of equity.” The law referred to is the SGMA compliance statute mandating we reduce aquifer depletion by 75 percent by 2040.

With Spanish interpretation provided by the BWD’s Esmerelda Garcia (with Gary Haldeman taking notes in Spanish), the first part of the meeting was devoted to giving folks an overview of our water situation and how our draft GSP will attempt to address the many, sometimes overlapping issues involved in Borrego’s water future.

The bulk of the meeting was taken up with audience questions, with Geoff Poole fielding most of the questions and providing fact-based, no-nonsense answers, if he knew them. When he didn’t, he said so. Here is a summary of some important issues raised and answers provided: The first question Poole fielded was a tough one: Why was the BWD and others trying to scare folks by sounding so many alarm bells, thus driving away potential residents and reducing real estate prices?

Poole reminded those present that the job of the BWD, the County, and those serving on the GSP Advisory Committee have but one goal – to gather the best information available and inform the public as accurately as possible about both current conditions and the expected impacts from proposed GSP policies and actions.

“We’re not here to sugarcoat the situation,” he said, adding that the impacts of an overall 75 percent reduction in aquifer use will no doubt be felt across Borrego’s socio-economic spectrum. “It would be worse if we did not disclose the facts we know to be valid,” said Poole.

An estimated 90-95 percent of future water savings will derive from the fallowing of agricultural farmland. No one pumping less than two acre-feet per year (2af/y) will be included in the reduction goals. For those pumping more than 2af/y, violators of water use restrictions will be identified via closely monitored metering; penalties for abuse will be identified in the Draft GSP.

In lieu of passage of Proposition 3 (and its $35 million for to purchase and fallow Ag lands), said Poole, agricultural interests will be encouraged to donate land, using that donation as a tax write-off. Prop 3 funds (appropriated, with some already dispersed for gathering data on socio-economic issues and impacts) along with other funding instruments, will be used to partially offset the loss of funds resulting from the recent “No” vote on Proposition 3.

Full story in the Nov. 29 issue of the Borrego Sun.

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