Digger - May 9, 2022
Highlights of recent articles about or related to groundwater in the Borrego Valley of California and efforts to manage it - or not.
For previous years click here.
An interview with Mark Jorgensen retired Superintendent of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Jorgensen is worried less about the causes of climate change than about dealing with its impacts, and believes that man has contributed to those impacts, e.g., places where there has previously been water that are now dry, once healthy cactus and ocotillo forests that are withering, declines in the few wetlands in the ABDSP and with that the diverse fauna that rely on them. He cited numerous examples of human activities that have caused harm including building roads that cut-off access to springs and introduction of livestock that compete with wildlife for available water and caused the number of bighorn sheep to plummet.
The bighorn sheep population in ABDSP has recovered thanks to installation of wildlife guzzlers in the 1980s and now numbers about 900 animals. The guzzlers catch and store rainwater to provide a water source for wildlife during the summer. But when there is little rain the guzzler's tanks are empty and there is no water for wildlife. According to Jorgensen, without human intervention "to fix what humans did starting with the gold rush" the sheep population will surely dwindle. But getting water to the remote guzzlers is an expensive proposition and has sparked push-back from some in the State Park's administration who question the cost/benefits ratio of doing so.
Jorgenson offered no solution for the global impacts of climate change, but believes that Borrego Springs needs to recognize reality and focus on reducing water use because it relies on a sole-source aquifer for its water.
Four letters: None about water.
The BWD board has decided to delay BWD's 2022 Town Hall meeting, normally held in the Spring, until the Fall when a majority of residents are in town. Topics under consideration include: projects funded by the State's Prop. 68 grant, BWD projects/finances, and Watermaster related issues. More details to follow.
An article by Nikki Symington, a Borrego Sun reporter, ostensibly about the important role of a community newspaper in providing vetted, factual information to community members to combat rumor, hearsay, conspiracy theories, and other sorts of misinformation that often circulate unchecked. Despite its intended purpose and ambiguous title, it contains nuggets of information pertinent to unfounded rumors, hearsay, conspiracy theories and other misinformation circulating in Borrego Springs about tanker trucks drawing water from a BWD well:
The article concludes by reminding residents of Borrego Springs that they may attend Water Board meetings, ask questions, explain their concerns, or even express a desire to have the contract canceled. [It is worth noting, however, that these are rights precious few Borregans have ever exercised.]
Four letters: One about water.
Ocotillo Solar, LLC will pay $9.81 per unit of water (1 Unit = 1 HCF = 748 G), "the highest approved rate," for all water taken from a BWD well plus a $28,000 one-time payment. Between now and 2040 BWD must purchase 950 acre-feet of water per year to meet existing customer demand. BWD staff proposes that income from the sale of water to Ocotillo Solar, LLC be added to funds generated by the newly created Tier 3 water rate specifically intended to help fund water rights acquisition.
Four letters: One about water.
A letter from Jim Wilson, President, Christmas Circle Park Board of Directors, explaining why the Park withdrew its application for Proposition 68 funds to upgrade its irrigation system and reduce water consumption. After submitting its application, the Park Board was informed that the Project Review Committee was using a list of criteria that were ill-suited to and disadvantaged the Park's application with no means provided "to rectify the grading method," so the Park Board elected not to participate. The Park's application was one of only five that would have reduced water consumption. The list of approved projects includes no water use reduction programs.
BWD and SDG&E are working to provide potable water to the latter's Borrego Springs Green Hydrogen Project to support grid reliability and help power the community during emergencies. BWD will provide an 8-inch pipe from Palm Canyon Dr. north for one mile along Borrego Valley Road to the SDG&E sub-station/solar farm along with a one-inch pipe to serve 1 acre-foot of water per year. In 2020 the BWD board approved a reimbursement agreement with SDG&E for project costs and SDG&E has deposited 50% of the estimated cost of the project with BWD.
Despite tensions over scoring and sharing the funds, a total of $5,481,090 of the $7.6 million in Proposition 68 funds was allocated. The balance will be awarded "in about one months' time."
Five letters: None about water.
BWD submitted a grant application for almost $6 million from Proposition 68 funds. Due to some last-minute project eliminations by DWR the final project list and overall grant amounts "were not what were expected." The overall amount is less than the $7.6 million available due to the limited time allowed to resubmit the project list to DWR.
Two letters: None about water.
The District's financial statements were found to be "free from material misstatements."
Water trucks filling at a BWD well near Borrego Springs Rd. and Anza Dr. raised concerns among residents. Upon investigating, the Borrego Sun learned that 40-acre feet of water had been purchased from BWD in 2015 by the Gildred Company for development of a solar farm in the Ocotillo Wells area at a cost of $4,300 per acre foot or a total of nearly $200,000 if all the water is used. In addition, Gildred promised to fallow 8 acres of citrus to comply with the County's mitigation policy and donate 300 acres of land to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
The project was delayed until 2019, when the developer was ready to begin construction. The then president of the BWD board, Kathy Dice, noted that a previous board had made an agreement to sell the water before passage of the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 and adoption of the Groundwater Management Plan for the Borrego Basin, but the District was still obligated to honor the contract. In the interim, 2015-2019, however, the fallowing of 8 acres of citrus, donation to the school district, and contribution of land to the State Park disappeared from the discussion. Dice, therefore, reminded Gildred, now known as Ocotillo Solar, LLC, that they still needed to transfer 300+ acres of land to the State Park or Federal Bureau of Reclamation.
BWD's General Manager, Geoff Poole, addressed concerns about selling scarce water for use outside the District by pointing out that the 40-acre feet sold to Ocotillo Solar amounted to only 2% of the District's annual water use.
Of the 13 applications for Proposition 68 funds submitted, 7 survived the first cut for $7.6 million grants. The entities submitting 3 of the successful proposals hope to receive an additional $2 million depending on whether or not other districts use all of their grant money or some of the projects in Borrego's package are rejected by DWR leaving funds available for repurposing. The successful applicants were:
|Borrego Water District||$4,540,500|
|Borrego Springs Watermaster||$2,238,590|
|Borrego Springs Unified School District||$384,000|
|Borrego Valley Stewardship Council||$200,000|
Some organizations dropped out of the application process because the DWR funds are available only on a cost reimbursement basis and they lacked the necessary upfront funds. DWR guidelines allow private entities to apply for a grant but specify that they must prove that their projects benefit the community and the basin. The de Anza Country Club submitted a proposal, but opponents asserted that it would do no more than allow it to conserve its own water resources for future use and, therefore, provided no benefit to the community or the basin.
Two letters: None about water.
Renovation of BWD's wastewater Treatment Plant has begun. The plant was commissioned in 1980, has a capacity of 250,000 gallons per day and a current annual flow of about 60,000 gallons per day.
Introduces BWD's newly appointed Director, Paul Rosenbloom.
Three letters: None about water.
The Borrego Water District is working with the Borrego Springs Watermaster on several proposals to be funded by as much as $10 million in Proposition 68 (The California Drought, Wate, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018) intended to fund projects that will further efforts to meet requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. These include monitoring Basin Groundwater Dependent Systems. BWD is proposing projects that will have beneficial rate impacts for decades and working with interested parties on projects that include turf reduction and conservation.
Two letters: None about water.
The Borrego Water District, Borrego Springs Watermaster, Borrego Springs Unified School District, and various nonprofits are developing grant proposals for a share of between $7.6 and $10 million in California Dept. of Water Resources funds intended to support projects that facilitate sustainable management of groundwater as required by California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The proposals will be scored and ranked by a project review committee comprising representatives of the Borrego Water District, Borrego Springs Watermaster, Borrego Springs Unified School District, and various local nonprofits.
There was no no mention of water whatsoever in this issue of the Borrego Sun.
LETTERS CAVEAT: For a few years now, San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond, who's District includes Borrego Springs, and the Francoise Rhodes, Executive Director of the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce, have each been publishing a 'letter' in every issue of the Borrego Sun. These missives are, and should be published and labeled as, reports on the activities of the respective individuals or their organizations. They are included in the tally of Letters to the Editor herein because that is how the paper publishes them. Due to the small number of letters appearing in each issue, however, doing so significantly skews the count and is misleading. For the sake of data continuity, we will continue counting them as 'letters' so long as the Borrego Sun presents them as such, but with this caveat.
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