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WMB Invokes Precautionary Principle?

Well, sort of...


Last updated 11/4/2020 at 10:31am

At a special meeting on Oct. 19 at 11:30 a.m., the Borrego Springs Interim WaterMaster Board, with all members present, unanimously agreed to send a “Letter of Caution” to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

It was agreed that the letter would be drafted by ED Samantha Adams and Director Jim Bennett, would not voice any specific crop by name, would include a statement about the need for the Anza-Terwilliger Water Basin (ATWB) and its potential impact on other basins to be studied, and would be sent in time to be received by the delayed Riverside BOS meeting date of Nov. 3.

At the outset of the meeting, Directors Mark Jorgensen and Dave Duncan said that a letter was definitely warranted as Hemp farms in the ATWB above Coyote Creek could pose a threat to that basin as well as to ours.

WMB Tech Advisor Andy Malone of Wildermuth Environmental briefed the Board by saying that the ATWB is quite distant from ours but is up-gradient so could eventually have a hydrologic impact. It is separated by bedrock from our basin. He also thought that monitoring and modelling would be needed in order to estimate any impacts.

Director Shannon Smith supported a general letter, but noted that there is little “binding law” to pursue the matter if there is an impact. WMB Counsel Jim Markman agreed, saying while there are a few legal cases having to do with interference with an outside water supply, the cost would be “horrendous” even if the case was good. Markman thought this was all the more reason to send a letter now.

Director Mike Seley supported sending a letter, but did not want a specific crop mentioned in case anyone does that in Borrego Springs. He also thought that the stated use of water in materials given the Board was highly overestimated.

Bennett said that with a 75% reduction here, even minor impacts to the basin are problematic. He noted that we are nine miles from the ATWB or 14 miles from the nearest irrigator. He thought that surface water was not likely to be impacted but that underflow is at issue, and that any impact should be commented on in order to protect the Borrego basin.

Markman noted that the ATWB is currently exempt from SGMA (California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act) due to an earlier adjudication, there are no current water allocations there, and two tribes are challenging for water rights.

The A-T Basin may even be in overdraft. There may be controls on water use in the future but there are none currently.

Gary Worobec of Take Back Anza, who originally brought this matter to the attention of the BWD Board, mentioned that since the BWD letter on this matter to the Riverside County BOS, he has some confidence that the BOS will remove the part of the ATWB in question from Hemp cultivation.

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