Digger - November 20, 2014
The Borrego Water Cabal's (BWC) "Groundwater Management Policy Recommendations" (Recommendations) is described in a very Chamber of Commerce press release as "a significant milestone" produced after "many months of extensive negotiations and collaborative work." In fact, it is an oversized speed bump on the road to groundwater sustainability produced after wasting two years in secret conniving to guarantee pumpers another quarter-century to mine the aquifer.
The Recommendations are shamelessly derivative of the State Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). They contain nothing bold or innovative and ignore completely the urgency of the Borrego Basin's unique and dire groundwater situation. They might well be taken as a joke but for the extraordinarily serious consequences of their gross inadequacies. To add insult to injury the BWC, by implicitly claiming the Recommendations as its own, audaciously and disingenuously seeks to make a virtue of the necessity to comply with state law.
Of the ten Recommendations at least the six enumerated below have serious flaws. The remaining four, at best, may be considered relatively innocuous.
Recommendation 1 exploits the generous deadlines allowed under SGMA to ensure nothing will happen before 31 Jan 2020 and the basin will not come into equilibrium before 2040 as required by SGMA.
Recommendation 2 allows establishment of a "baseline" against which to measure required reductions for each pumper based on an estimate of historical average annual water use - presumably provided by the pumper in question, i.e. an honor system where historically honor has been eclipsed by greed.
Recommendation 4 calls for undefined "funding mechanisms to expedite bringing the basin into balance" without which support for the Recommendations from pumpers on the BWC disappears; a thinly veiled attempt by pumpers to extort inflated land prices and other payments to fallow irrigated land.
Recommendation 8&9 together require that all production wells be metered and monitored within two years of approving a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP)- realistically seven years from present or 2022 (see 1 above).
Recommendation 10 demands formal recognition of the BWC as a player in the development, implementation, and management of the BWD's GSP going forward to ensure that none of the SGMA'S mandates is met before its statutory time and tribute to pumpers is uninterrupted.
Collectively these anemic recommendations betray the opposition of pumpers on the BWC to timely implementation of an effective GSP and the complimentary disinclination of other members to confront, never mind overcome, the pumpers' attempt to slow-walk the process. The Recommendations are not then, as the press release enthuses, a "milestone;" they are a millstone.
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