Digger - March 14, 2018
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.
At their March meeting the Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group unanimously rejected Rudyville's request to increase the zoning density for the project site ten fold. A number of community members made comments opposing Rudyville and no one at the meeting spoke in favor of the project. A representative from San Diego County described the request's multiple inconsistencies with both the County's General Plan and the Borrego Springs Community Plan as reasons for recommending its rejection by the County Dept. of Planning and Development Services. The representative added, however, that the recommendation is "not binding on the County Supervisors who will have the final say on Rudyville" and emphasized the importance of a large turn-out at public hearings on project in San Diego later this year by those who oppose it.
Announces that March will begin and end with a series of meetings on the Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Borrego Basin and related topics and that public input is "now more important than ever," BWD will be seeking additional water supplies to meet the needs of ratepayers' and does not expect to have to reduce its water use by 70%.
A report on the February BWD Board meeting at which the board "revisited two draft ordinances related to water shortages and water shortage emergencies that will assist the community in addressing the current waters crisis and support BWD's efforts to secure bond funding for water and sewer projects."
A highly biased, factually inaccurate, sycophantic letter by Dave Duncan, the nominal ratepayer representative on the Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory Committee. It complains about "many letters [to the editor of the Borrego Sun] regarding our water issue," most of which "bear the same handful of names and blast BWD for not doing enough to protect the community"and purports to offer another perspective on BWD and its board. Duncan recites the District's shameful recent fiscal history and lauds the current board's role in bringing it "out of darkness." In the process, he makes a number of unsubstantiated claims about what the current board has achieved, downplays their authority to have done anything more to fix the problem, and tries to minimize the extremely important role of adjudication in resolving similar situations in California, among other things. Small wonder that the board was so anxious to have Duncan as ratepayer representative.
The Borrego Water District and San Diego County received preliminary approval of a grant application for $1 million from the California Department of Water Resources to help offset the cost of preparing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Borrego Basin. (more)
Saul Miller finds it "remarkable" that "[e]verybody knows what the problem is in Borrego, and how to solve it." Farmers "are the major source of the problem" because they pump 70% of the water each year, but want "everyone to reduce their water use by the same amount, i.e. 70%, which "is nonsense" because "residents who are using approximately 10% of the water. are simply not in a position to reduce their use significantly. Under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act "farmers would have until 2040 to comply with the 70% reduction." But that long delay puts the aquifer's water quality at risk and "[t]here is no reason they can't be forced to comply sooner." According to Miller "[t]he solution is simple. The major pumpers, especially the farmers, have to stop pumping or cut way back. They need to start soon."
The entire article deals with amendments to BWD's policy for Water and Sewer Infrastructure for New Developments.
More about BWD's $1 million grant from the Department of Water Resources which will cover "five critical areas of concern to Borregans":
San Diego County is committing its $500K from the grant to an environmental review of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan.
The Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group will hear public comment on Rudyville. The last time it held a public hearing on the development in April 2016 not one of the 150 attendees spoke in favor of it, but the Sponsor Group was unable to vote because it lacked a quorum and the vote is not bunding on the County Board of Supervisors in any case. After the Sponsor Group votes and sends its formal recommendation to the County there will be two more public hearings on Rudyville before the County Supervisors vote to "determine the outcome of the Rudyville saga." The community of Borrego Springs has opposed Rudyville for a decade and it appears as if County staff are poised to deny the developer's request for increased density because of multiple inconsistencies with the County General Plan.
A letter to the editor alleging that, despite the many sound reasons to deny Rudyville's request for increased density, political shenanigans and back room deals may nonetheless secure its approval. Ya think?
An article about the Citizen's Advisory Committee (AC) which is working with Borrego Water District and the County of San Diego to develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Borrego Basin that will balance withdrawals from the aquifer with recharge. The AC meets monthly to address ratepayer concerns and questions and pass them on to BWD and the County. The nine member AC has four members representing the Borrego Water Coalition, one representative each for BWD ratepayers, the Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group, the Borrego Valley Stewardship Council, the San Diego County Farm Bureau, and California State Parks. Dave Duncan, the BWD ratepayer representative, "holds monthly meetings at the BWD office to gather input from ratepayers which he then passes on to the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (BWD and the County)."
Provides a "highly simplified" description of the process by which the Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory Committee addresses issues and concerns and formulates GSP policy recommendations "that speak to the overarching issue of aquifer sustainability." Still further simplified that process is:
A Letter to the Editor describing a bazaar situation in which the Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group has called for the Borrego Basin Groundwater Sustainability Plan to grant the Borrego Water District a share of the aquifer's safe yield sufficient to serve its customers while the BWD board is passively resisting this reasonable request.
Defines and describes the "cone of depression" or "close neighbor" problem. The cone of depression is "the funnel shaped cone of earth above and around the wellhead not saturated with water" caused by pumping groundwater. If two wells are in close proximity and one is deeper than the other there is a possibility that the cone of depression of the deeper well will result in loss of production from the shallower of the two. (The article provides somewhat helpful graphics to illustrate this.) One solution to the problem is to shut down one of the competing well pumps to allow groundwater to re-saturate the cone of depression. The recovery of wells with overlapping cones of depression, however, may result in well measurements being misinterpreted or misrepresented - intentionally or otherwise - as indicating that the groundwater level of the basin overall is rising. It is not, and these two phenomena should not be confused.
This same article appeared in the 11 January 2018 issue of the Borrego Sun.
Reports that the county has published the final documents required before the "travesty called Rudyville" can come to a vote by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors that could occur as soon as July 2018. The Tubb Canyon Desert Conservancy, which has opposed Rudyville since its inception, is planning a range of activities for the spring to voice opposition to the project. (See also Saul Miller's cartoon on page 27 that speaks volumes.)
Hydrologist John Peterson conducted a study of water quality at mountain water sources for Big Horn Sheep using water samples collected by sheep counters during the annual sheep count and determined that "the sheep are doing fine, but. we need annual data."
A Letter to the Editor signed by 19 concerned citizens urging the Borrego Water District Board of Directors to more vigorously defend the interests of municipal ratepayers, i.e. homeowners and businesses in Borrego Springs, by insisting that the Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Borrego Basin provide BWD with at least its historical demand for groundwater.
Over the years many studies have tried to establish how much water was stored in the Borrego Basin, but few have looked at water quality. For the Borrego Water District, however, water quality is potentially a multi-million dollar problem because once potable groundwater supplies are exhausted the District will be forced to pay for prohibitively expensive water treatment to meet State standards for drinking water. BWD is already testing water from its production wells more often than the State requires, but still more tests are needed to understand groundwater quality and and developing trends.
(NOTE: These two articles should have been one so we are reviewing the two together for purposes of clarity.)
Borrego Country Club Estates (Rudyville) is a 169 acre development project located south of Christmas Circle on the west side of Borrego Springs Road that would create 153 additional home sites and and place additional demand on the community's already overdrafted groundwater system among a host of other negative impacts. The County of San Diego published the Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) for Rudyville, known to the County as DS-24, in December. Public hearings and a vote by the County Board of Supervisors expected "sometime in 2018" will determine whether or not a ten-fold increase in density from the current one dwelling unit per 10 acres to one dwelling unit per one acre requested by the developer will be allowed. The question at issue, simply put, is whether or not residents of Borrego will have to live with the many serious detrimental consequences of this superfluous development. The decision on the change in density will be strongly influenced by politics and public participation will be critical in determining the outcome.
Proposition One, approved by the California legislature in November 2017, provides funds for projects consistent with requirements of the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The County of San Diego submitted a Prop One grant application on behalf of the Borrego Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency for one million dollars divided equally between the County and BWD to fund projects selected by each agency. BWD's projects include a social/economic study of the community, an analysis of the impacts of water use reductions, "assessment of potential water supply decision-making issues," and a study of potential sites for a new BWD well. A decision on the grant application is expected in Spring 2018.
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