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Bill Berkley Follies Presents The Dead Cat Bounce

Digger - September 10, 2013

Bill Berkley, the new owner of Rams Hill, has declared a golf course crucial to his attempt to again resurrect that dead cat and is negotiating with BWD to acquire two existing wells on the property from the District and the right to drill more so he can irrigate it on the cheap. The rights, along with a production well on the property, were sold to BWD by the previous owner in a deal that stands out as the single most important action among the very few the District has taken to bring mining of the aquifer under control.

Berkley knew or should have known that he would have to purchase water from BWD when he bought the golf course but now complains that the cost of doing so is unsustainable. Rams Hill residents are "displeased" that the golf course is brown and argue that returning the right to drill new wells to serve the golf course will benefit the entire community. That claim has been made repeatedly since DiGiorgio first applied to the county for permits to build the development and has consistently proven false. Any suggestion that this iteration will be different represents the triumph of hope over experience.

Berkley also complains that BWD Director Beth Hart told him that his inability to afford the cost of water from the District was not the District's problem - but she was absolutely right. Residents of Borrego should fervently hope that she and other board members have the good sense and moral courage maintain that position in the face of disingenuous, self-serving arguments from a small group that stands to gain directly and handsomely in the short term from the Board's capitulation.

It is far from clear, however, that the board is of a single mind on this matter. In a letter to residents of Rams Hill dated June 8, 2013 Berkely asserts "BWD board member Lyle Brecht in particular has been very helpful in finding a creative solution to the golf course water problem," and the Borrego Sun reports that BWD is "moving forward" on a plan to resolve the issue, but had no details as to how.

What is needed is not "a creative solution to the golf course water problem," but a solution to the Borrego Valley's water problem. Controlling the right to pump is crucial to any such solution. Abrogating the District's extremely limited ability to do so, in whole or in part, is therefore retrogressive and amounts to selling-out the community to appease a special interest.

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