WaterMaster Board Holds First Meeting
Last updated 4/20/2020 at 1:15pm
Despite the pandemic shutting down businesses and in-person public meetings throughout Borrego Springs, the newly formed WaterMaster Board (WMB) soldiered on and held its first meeting on March 31 online to maintain social distancing. It was a marathon, lasting over three hours, and the Board members covered a lot of ground to set the stage for what’s to come in the next 20 years. The discussions were amicable and informative, and the WMB managed to vote unanimously on several key issues on the agenda. Other issues not deemed ripe for a vote were scheduled for their second meeting on April 16.
Four elected Board Directors – Shannon Smith, Mike Seley, Dave Duncan, and Mark Jorgensen – were in attendance, as was Alternate Martha Deichler, with the Fifth Director from the County not yet appointed. Eighteen members of the public watched our computer screens, listened in to the Board discussions, and we were given the opportunity to weigh in with questions either live or via chat dialogue.
The minutes of the meeting by Borrego Water District Recording Secretary Wendy Quinn, as well as the recorded video are available for viewing on borregowd.org website. The reason this online meeting and other seemingly dry, mundane Board activities are important is maintaining compliance with the Brown Act, a law passed in California in 1953 meant to ensure full transparency and to allow public participation on all matters involving local legislative bodies. In short, it’s to prevent collusion between more than two Board members to arrive at a pre-determined position that excludes consideration of public input.
BWD General Manager Geoff Poole led the agenda item discussions, and BWD attorney Steven Anderson fielded many of the procedural questions. Two other attorneys were also present, Russell McGlothlin (Recreation sector) and Michele Staples (Agricultural sector). The WMB will eventually hire its own counsel.
The first item on the agenda was what issues require a super majority (four out of five members voting to formally adopt a decision). Given that the Board was set to have five members, but the County has not yet decided to participate, attorney Anderson weighed in that in light of the need to address procedural issues, a consensus vote by three out of four members would be sufficient at this early stage. Appointing WMB staff members (such as Executive Director, Technical Advisory Committee members, etc.) is one of the issues requiring a four out of five super majority, so efforts are underway by Poole and others to move the County towards a decision on their membership.
Agenda items up for Board consideration began with how to formally ratify their first official work product, the completed Department of Water Resources (DWR) Annual Report, originally due the next day, April 1, but extended due to COVID-19. The 102-page Annual Report was prepared by BWD consultant Dudek, Inc., under the leadership of Trey Driscoll, and it laid out via text, tables, and graphics the details of our Sub-basin’s past and current groundwater situation. It also provided compliance guidelines for metering and monitoring. Seley found a discrepancy in how some of the numbers were, although accurate in their own right, presented on different scales. Time constraints in preparing the Report were key on that matter, said Driscoll, but adjustments were, after a brief discussion, approved unanimously to provide consistency. The Report will reflect those changes (and one minor revision as to approval of various brands of well pump meters) prior to submission.
Full article in the April 16 issue of the Borrego Sun.