A Community Member's Report on Borrego's WMB
Last updated 5/13/2020 at 10am
This monthly report is not meant to cover everything that occurs in the Watermaster Board Meetings, but I will try to include enough to keep Borregans informed. In future reports I hope to include some mini-interviews about questions or items of interest by talking with Watermaster Board Members and those who are involved in the Board’s workings.
The Borrego Springs Interim Watermaster Board is composed of a small group of people who will be managing our basin under the sustainable groundwater use plan (Stipulation Judgement) for Borrego Springs. The State Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) provides for an alternate path to compliance that is under the jurisdiction of the state superior court system through an adjudication process, and that is the path our town is following.
We have been appointed a judge who will review our plan, give assent to it, oversee it, and to whom appeals can be made. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, it is uncertain when our judge, the Honorable Melissa R McCormick, who is based in Orange County, will be actively involved. Until she can authorize our WaterMaster Board, the Board is meeting and functioning as an Interim Board. Of the five members it is designed to have, four are currently active: Dave Duncan, Borrego Water District; Mark Joregensen, Borrego Community; Shannon Smith, Golf/Recreation; and Mike Seley, Agriculture. The County of San Diego will hold the fifth seat if it decides to join during the summer.
The Interim Watermaster Board (WM Board) held two meetings on March 31 and April 16.
For the moment, the WM Board is reliant on lawyers and BWD to function. The only WM Board represented constituency without its own attorney is the community. BWD General Manager Geoff Poole, BWD Counsel Steve Anderson and BWD Administrative Assistant Esmeralda Garcia are helping move the process along until an attorney for the WM Board itself can be hired, as well as a WM Board Executive Director. BWD has approved this support for 90 days. Attorney’s Michele Staples, Agriculture; Russell McGlothlin, T-2/Rams Hill; and Steve Anderson have been working on documents needed to advertise for the two necessary initial positions, so the WM Board will have its own staff.
There is still only one public comment on the Department of Water Resource (DWR) public comment web page for the Borrego Valley Stipulated Judgement (water plan). The public comment period has been extended to May 15. You can submit a comment here: https://sgma.water.ca.gov/portal/alternative/comments/37
The next WM Board Meeting is tentatively scheduled for May 28 at 5:30 p.m., since responses to the call for applications for an Executive Director and Attorney are likely to be received by then, but an earlier meeting may be called. Meeting dates are currently posted on BWD’s web page at least 72 hours in advance for a regular meeting.
Given rules due to COVID-19, these meetings are all being held via video conferencing, with a phone-in option.
If you want to participate, please send an email requesting to be put on the Watermaster Board email list to firstname.lastname@example.org. Agenda packets including minutes from the previous meeting as well as documents related to agenda items are sent out in advance of the meeting. Instructions about how to link up to the online meeting are on each agenda.
The Watermaster Board aims to work collaboratively and with camaraderie for the benefit of all Borregans in keeping our water supply adequate and safe into the future, while facilitating the trading of water allocations as those who hold allocated rights to pump water change their water use over time. That’s pretty much what it means to implement the Stiplulated Judgement that is our water plan to reduce the amount of water pumped over a 20-year period until we reach a level of water use that is sustainable. Water and money will be changing hands as this moves forward. Public participation in these WM Board Meetings can help this goal happen in a way that works for all of us.
I encourage anyone who cares about this to follow these meetings and participate when you can. The management of our basin’s water use is only just beginning, so it is a good time to start attending these meetings.
Full article in the April 30 issue of the Borrego Sun.