Community Member's Report on Borrego's WMB: Some Questions, Answers
Last updated 5/22/2020 at 11:31am
There hasn’t been another WaterMaster Board Meeting yet since April 16, but I thought I’d ask some WMB Board Members a few questions to help us all follow the Board’s thoughts and activities. This report is based on email conversations with Mike Seley, who represents Agricultural interests, and Mark Jorgensen, who represents Borrego Community interests.
I asked Mike Seley for an update about farmers’ installation of water meters, something mandated by our water plan, the Proposed Stipulation Judgement.
Mike: (over the course of a number of emails): 100% of AAWARE and other farmers with whom I converse are engaged/working with the vendors on meter installations (with different levels of progress, as everything seems slow these days; everything from system designs, to credit approval, to just waiting to get their parts back).
Rebecca: Here’s from item D of the minutes from the March 31 WM Board Meeting (posted on the BWD web page in the agenda packet for the April 16 meeting): Director Seley reported that seven out of the 11 pumpers requiring meters have installed them. The others are in the design process, credit check or on order. Four was the number given then by AAWARE lawyer Michele Staples as those who hadn’t yet been able to complete meter installation (as of 3/31).
Can you help me understand that the number of farmers now complying with meter installation seems to have remained about the same?
Mike: We are making good progress on getting meters installed within the criteria set forth in the Stipulated Agreement, not just counting whomever had previous “installations” (recalibrated, and approved make/model, etc). It appears that most of the farmers are taking the opportunity to upgrade to newer models and advanced features (telemetry, analytics or just newer systems, not just recalibrating older models).
A more robust accounting will be reported at the May WaterMaster meeting. Based on current feedback (end of day May 4), we will have more total installations and verification on the total installation count, including more data that will be helpful to the WaterMaster for certification of compliance. We’re still engaged in collecting data and counting meters.”
Rebecca: Is the expectation that all will be in place (meters installed per requirements) by May 28, the next WM Board meeting? That will be almost two months past the deadline date for meter installation in the stipulation documents.
Mike: “I think so, if the vendors are responsive (I have one farmer waiting for 10 days for an RMA (Material Authorization Return) number, so that they can ship their meter for an upgrade. That wait is too long in my book). I would say this would be my expectation and I would say definitely that all of my farmers (AWAARE) will have done their part to make this happen.”
Rebecca: Do you think the delay is due to COVID-19?’
Mike: “I don’t have a lot of experience with them before, so I don’t have a baseline, but I think that has something to do with it. That or just a lot of orders coming in at the same time. Most of them are from McCrometer, so that one rep is getting a lot of business right now.”
Rebecca: How are farmers feeling/what are farmers thinking about staying in the valley to farm versus utilizing the water trading program to sell and exit Borrego?
Mike: “I don’t have any details on that. What I do know is already public information (which farms have been sold for water credits, Burnand, Fortiner, etc.), I do not know, or expect to know who is in negotiations. As of this date, I have personally not seen a public program that sets a price for water that they can consider. Moreso, if there are any, they are probably being handled privately, and discretely (as negotiations usually are).
Rebecca: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Mike: “Seley Ranches intends to remain and are exploring different technologies and go-to-market approaches to remain viable.”
I also asked Mark Jorgensen a few questions.
Rebecca: Do you have particular areas under management by the Watermaster Board that you will be paying special attention going forward? Environmental? Do you have anything you’d like to say to Borregans you represent at this point?
Mark: My main emphasis as the Community Representative will be to assure, to the best of my ability, and within my role as Community Rep, to stand up and speak strongly on behalf of each member of our town. I aim to seek fairness in all proceedings and to continually represent the citizens. I expect strong advocacy for agricultural and recreational interests and I respect the representatives of those interests. I sense that in our first two meetings of the WMB, there seems to be mutual respect among the four parties and a willingness to come to the table to deal with the complex challenges ahead to meet the goals of the judicial mandate.
I’m satisfied so far that the WaterMaster Board has set a course for success and that with continued cooperation of all representatives we shall meet our goals for sustainable water usage in the future.
I do expect challenges to the legal demands that pumpers scale back their consumption dramatically. I expect to speak out strongly to assure the community retains sufficient water to allow for reasonable growth, that we are assured adequate supplies to build confidence in our community to safeguard the outlook for residents, businesses, the real estate market, and our environment.
As we move along in this process, I will be vigilant at every step that we move with fairness, that we follow the orders of the Superior Court mandates, and that all four entities are moving along together at all stages of water management.
My motivation for participating in this lengthy and laborious process is to represent the citizens of Borrego, to feel free to speak out for the community, drawing on my 45 years of residency and my 36 years of environmental work at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I’ve been involved in this water issue since it first came to public discussion in the early 1980’s. I am willing to listen to any comments from local citizens or business interests. Folks should feel free to send me comments at my email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebecca: I thought that you would have a special interest in the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that is mentioned in the Proposed Stipulation Judgement. The EWG is not fleshed out in the document and it will only have a budget if funds are provided for it in the upcoming first Watermaster Board Budget, yet to be proposed.
Mark: “I originally expected to serve in some capacity on the EWG, but then was asked to serve as the Community Rep, in which case I felt I’d have more input in behalf of the community, while still using my experiences as a Park Naturalist, Resource Ecologist and Superintendent for issues of environmental concern. The EWG gets a brush-over in the Stipulated Judgment, but hopefully we can give it a higher profile in implementation.”
Rebecca: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Mark: “So far I am impressed with the professionalism of all WMB representatives and what I sense is their sincere dedication to making this sustainability effort a success story. We shall see as the plan progresses. Each of us is dedicated to representing our constituencies and moving ahead in a cooperative effort to be successful.
The next Watermaster Board Meeting is currently scheduled for 5:30 p.m., May 28. The Agenda will be posted on the BWD web page at least 72 hours prior to the meeting: http://www.bvgsp.org/watermaster-board-meetings.html.
To have your name added to the Watermaster Board email list for meeting notifications, send a request to BWD General Manager Geoff Poole at email@example.com.