Last updated 2/11/2020 at 1:39pm
It was a full morning on Jan. 28 covering BWD Board agenda items, and here are the highlights:
The first person to speak at the board meeting was Borrego Unified School District Superintendent Mark Stevens making his presentation on the high school’s water well situation. He argued that potential impacts arising from the proposed irrigation well location would be minimal, if any at all, due to the location and depth of the well in relation to another nearby well down gradient. Kurt Yaws later reported the fact that the high school is shelling out $10K per month for irrigation, the cost soon to be reduced by the use of Solar power for the pumps.
Next on the agenda was to rewrite a description of the duties and responsibilities of the BWD’s rep to the Water Master Board and that of the Community Member to be selected on Feb. 4 at a public meeting in the Library.
The three questions by the Board to the candidates ahead of the meeting and published in the Sun were noted, and the public would also be free to ask questions of the candidates.
Diana Del Bono gave a summary of how BWD would comply with SB-998 regarding their delinquent payment policy. Delinquent rate payers will have 60 days to pay their bill or get red-tagged, then another 10 days to pay. Unless, that is, they qualified for a hardship exemption. Account payment arrangements could also be made. Del Bono said there will be notices going out in the next billing cycle in English and Spanish, and the BWD website will provide the SB-998 policy in many languages. Board President Kathy Dice there would be a few tweaks needed to the language used for the public notice and website.
Hydrogeologist John Peterson made a presentation of how to ensure the acquisition of the best data for the lowest price available from 31 existing monitoring wells regarding water quality and aquifer level monitoring in the Valley. “Get the cheap data first,” he said, “and fill he data gaps in the system,” meaning the acquisition of data that would be voluntarily supplied from the pumpers themselves in a swath of land from Coyote Creek to the Borrego Sink currently having few if any monitoring wells.
Rick Alexander has been tasked with seeking grant applications for various projects, and one now involves a topic that was the longest discussed topic in the meeting – abandoned wells. According to research by BWD intern Meet Panchal, there are 108 wells in the Valley (out of a total of 221 wells identified) that fall into the category of “inactive.” That is, they are probably abandoned and not properly destroyed and “capped.” Such wells are a potential health hazard if chemical contaminants get down the well bore hole and reach the aquifer, our only source of fresh drinking water. For examples, the cost of capping the single large capacity well on Casa del Zorro property was a whopping $17,000, and another smaller well capping ran $7,000. Property owners are sometimes reluctant to shell out large sums of money to comply with regs to properly destroy/cap an inactive well, so the potential danger to public health is an issue.
As noted by Board Director Lyle Brecht, the County has authority over land use. The question arose from Brecht as to whether or not the BWD would weigh in on land use issues that impact BWD’s financial risk regarding inactive/abandoned wells.
The financial risk to BWD and/or the County is associated with potential lawsuits generated by adjacent well/aquifer contamination from inactive or abandoned wells, and it’s presumed to be considerable.
All reasonable measures should be taken to avoid those risks to rate payers. BWD is taking on the task of identifying inactive/abandoned wells, and both BWD and the County may in the end have to pony up some of the costs associated with well abandonment/destruction/capping. The possibility of State and/or Federal grants for such projects is worth pursuing, Brecht said. Hence Rick Alexander is now also tasked to search for such grant opportunities.
On the related issue involving Developer’s Policy, the Board agreed that a conversation is needed with the Department of Planning Services that gives voice to local concerns as an offset to generalized County concerns, by providing the County with the documentation used in preparation for the many Rudyville hearings. A letter will therefore be drafted to present at the next Sponsor’s Group meeting and sent to Supervisor Jim Desmond, focusing on the financial risks arising from potential legal and other costs to the BWD and the County of well/aquifer-related contamination.
In other BWD news, the District pumped 1,500 acre-feet of water last calendar year, below the previous year’s amount, due to conservation efforts. Those conservation efforts, however, resulted in a loss of District revenue. It’s the Catch-22 of water conservation vs. District revenue streams – a trade off in priorities.
Good news on participation in the Stipulated Judgment. A respectable 86.7% of pumpers are now on board the Stip, very close to the 90% goal by BWD negotiators Geoff Poole and attorney Steve Anderson. The BWD will shortly submit the info to the Court, and then apply for an injunction on pumpers (agreed to in the Stip) to help move the Stip further towards implementation.
The last item for summary is the identification of procedures and protocols for protecting native cultural resources now and in the future. The “Indian Head” (aka Chief Rain-in-the-Face) water tank soon to be replaced may, during construction, unearth materials or artifacts of interest to tribal leaders and archaeologists. To preclude their destruction, BWD has agreed to a request by the Ipai Indian tribe to notify their representative to come and inspect the site, as well as BWD calling out it’s archeological consultant to meet and confer with the tribal representative.
For more details and topics covered, go online to http://www.borregowd.org where the minutes will be posted before the next scheduled BWD Board meeting on Feb.11.