Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Rebecca Falk 

Borrego WaterMaster Board: Fifth Board Member Appointed, Staff and Legal Counsel Hires Underway


Last updated 7/1/2020 at 8:23am

The June 11 WaterMaster Board Meeting Agenda was devoted to deliberations in a session closed to the public for the purpose of appointing Legal Counsel and an Executive Director/Technical Consultant. It is possible some or all of the firms who responded to the announcement of these open positions were connected to the virtual meeting and available for questions by the Board, but there was no further public information available about the closed sessions. So we await the outcome, which may have already occurred, or which may require another session.

The first WM Board Agenda for this meeting was reposted to include an additional item – a letter I sent in repeating a suggestion I had made at the May 28 meeting to include the public in WM Board deliberations while maintaining the integrity of the deliberations (the privacy of each firm’s application and interview from the other applicants).

I explained why I thought it would be good to have the short list or even just the final firms being considered make statements in the public part of the meeting prior to a final decision being made, to allow the Board to see how the party being hired speak to the public and to signal the importance of including the pubic. I have no information about whether this will happen, and again, we await the outcome of the closed session deliberations of the WM Board.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors (BOS), at their June 3 meeting, voted unanimously to continue their involvement in the Borrego Valley Basin by allowing the County Water Resources Manager to fill the seat on the WM Board that the Stipulated Agreement created for the County. This was a huge reversal of the County’s intent, since it was widely understood that the County was planning not to fill that seat, but instead to have a County Hydrogeologist serve on the Technical Advisory Committee for the WM Board and attend meetings as a member of the public, and Staff recommended just that to the BOS at the June 3 meeting.

During the weeks before this important decision, word was circulating that the Supervisor would indeed make a case for the County to take the seat provided for it on the WM Board, although it was unknown whether staff or a political appointee would fill that seat, and it was unknown whether the full County BOS would be willing to act against County Counsel’s advice and also to break County precedent in another basin of not appointing staff to serve on a WM Board.

With a lot at stake for the future of the Borrego Springs WM Board – which really needed a fifth member to avoid tied decisions and which also was in need of the County’s expertise as well as its recognition that County land use authority involved water use issues – the expectation was that the community would be disappointed with the outcome of the BOS vote.

But surprisingly, the reverse happened. County Supervisor Jim Desmond spoke movingly and to the point about the history of County avoidance of acting on the knowledge that our basin was being overdrafted, and made a motion that San Diego County have its Water Resources Manger fill the seat set aside for the County on the WM Board. Everyone who has been involved in water issues in Borrego Springs knows Jim Bennett, who will now serve on the WM Board as the county representative. Speaking in favor of Supervisor Desmond’s motion at the BOS meeting were Borrego Water District General Manager Geoff Poole, Rams Hill’s Shannon Smith, La Casa Del Zorro and RoadRunner Tree Farm’s Jack McGrory, and Seley Ranches’ Jim Seley. Jim Bennett was not able to participate in the June 11 WM Board Meeting, but will join the WM Board soon.

With the County holding a seat on the WM Board, the Board will be functioning as envisioned, although still missing the oversight of the judge who is to preside over it. Once Counsel and an ED/Tech Consultant are in place, the WM Board will be closer to readiness for the first monitored water use year for pumpers under our water plan, which will begin in October.

Water issues and politics can be overwhelming to understand, and may not seem exciting or even interesting to everyone. For those of you who do have some level of interest in what is, after all, a necessity of life that will determine our ability to live in this place we call home into the future, I urge you to attend WM Board Meetings. It couldn’t be easier in this time of virtual meetings. You can attend via computer, smart phone or land line telephone. Members of the public can attend public meetings without identifying themselves, and of course you don’t have to speak.

I attended BWD meetings for years and mostly listened. It takes time to follow issues, and you may not end up following all of them. But you might find that you do have thoughts about some of the issues raised at meetings you attend. It is important for a small governing body like the WM Board to hear from those who understand matters in a fresh way, and it is also important for members of the community to simply witness what happens as the WM Board gets to work. Although it is easier to simply hand over responsibility to the five members who make up the WM Board, and the staff they eventually hire, it isn’t really possible for a small group to make all the best decisions without some other perspectives being heard.

You can send an email to asking to be put on the WM Board email list to receive upcoming agendas so you know when meetings happen, or you can visit to see when the next meeting is scheduled, and soon the WM Board will have its own web page.

If you want to call in to a meeting and don’t have access to a computer, call BWD to ask how to call in or where to view notices of meetings. I hope to “see” you at an upcoming WM Board virtual meeting.

The next meeting isn’t publicly noticed yet, but likely will happen in the late afternoon of June 25, the same day this report is published in the Borrego Sun.

Meetings are all “Special Meetings” at this point, which means the notices are published at least 24 hours prior to a meeting.