Borrego's WaterMaster Board Meeting
Last updated 6/11/2020 at 12:43pm
This meeting was the fourth Watermaster Board (WM Board) Meeting held, and while it will still be some time before the assigned judge presides over the agreements in place that chart our path toward sustainable water use in the Borrego Valley, efforts are in motion to hire staff and begin management of our water basin.
Four firms responded to the WM Board’s notice that an Executive Director and Technical Consultant are being sought. These submissions, like those from the nine firms who responded to notice of the position of Counsel for the Board, are to be discussed in closed sessions and the decision about which firms to hire from a short list of those being considered will occur in the public portion of upcoming meetings. Final votes may occur as soon as June 11 for the position of Counsel, and June 28 for that of ED/Technical Consultant, as Directors were asked to bring their preferences for a short list for ED/Tech consultant to the May 28 Meeting and those are assumed to have been discussed in the closed portion of the meeting once the public portion ended. Anyone interested in viewing the names of the firms who responded can check the WM Board Agenda Packets for April 16 and May 14 at: http://www.bvgsp.org/watermaster-board-meetings.html.
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) public comment period on the Stipulated Judgement and its associated documents closed on May 15 and there were five responses, which can be read here: https://sgma.water.ca.gov/portal/alternative/comments/37. They make for interesting reading. A short report was made about the comments by Rams Hill’s attorney, Russell McGlothlin. Below is a longer description of one of the comments based on my reading of it. Additional comments were submitted by DWR, Tubb Canyon Conservancy, Rebecca Falk and the Air Ranch. DWR will be reviewing all comments made during the public comment period for compatibility with SGMA, the state water law that mandates sustainable groundwater use.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) submitted an extensive comment letter identifying a number of matters deemed not sufficiently in accordance with the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
Sustainable yield, the amount of water that can be pumped without depleting the aquifer over time, was thought to be likely lower than is stated in our water plan since the use of long term data can skew the results. It was recommended that any instance of overpumping beyond an individual pumper’s Baseline Pumping Allocation be offset by a pumping reduction in that pumper’s allocation in the following year, since a monetary penalty fee was likely not a sufficient deterrent to overpumping.
CDFW also suggested that data gaps should be filled in order to adequately manage the basin, such as unknown undesirable results in adjacent basins from pumping in our basin, and lack of information about how much water flows between basins at the San Felipe fault. CDFW additionally recommended a different method for screening monitoring wells, a method for measuring whether springs have a hydrologic connection to the basin, and a method for funding the Environmental Working Group of the WM Board through an administration fee on each acre foot of water pumped in order to protect public trust resources and Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs).
The WM Board Directors discussed a San Diego County Staff recommendation that is up for a vote on the agenda for the Board of Supervisors (BOS) on June 3. County Staff is recommending that one of the County
Hydrogeologists serve on the WM Board Technical Advisory Committee and attend all meetings of the Board as a member of the public, but that the County not take a seat on the WM Board.
There may be a Special WM Board Meeting called on short notice (24 hour notice is required) before June 3 to vote on whether to send a letter from the WM Board to the County BOS requesting that the County keep the seat on the Board that was agreed on for that purpose by those signing the Stipulation Judgement/Water Plan.
San Diego County District 5 Supervisor Jim Desmond is in favor of the County taking a seat on the WM Board. It is not clear who would represent the County on the WM Board should the BOS go against the Staff recommendation and vote to put a County representative on the WM Board.
Finally, Director Dave Duncan facilitated further discussion on gathering well meter data in preparation for the first full year of reporting such data from newly installed, calibrated or updated water meters on all pumpers’ wells.
While data officially begins for that year in October, Duncan pointed out that staffing needed to be in place to read meters that cannot be read electronically, software platforms have to be tested for compatibility for electronically reported meters, and any connectivity issues need to be addressed. In other words, a beta test period of some months needs to occur between now and October. Director Mike Seley is working to confirm make and model of meters, and that meters are ready. Directors were asked to review the Stipulation Judgement and associated documents to refresh everyone’s memory about the details of what precisely needs to occur to comply with the agreed upon terms of the metering program.
Look for notices of upcoming meetings on the BWD web page: http://www.bvgsp.org. It is easy to attend meetings either using an internet connection or by making a telephone call.