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The following is a summary and analysis of a presentation by Vice President of the Borrego Water District (BWD) Board Lyle Brecht to the Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group on Thursday, 04 December 2014 prepared by a concerned citizen who attended the meeting and circulated among the very few individuals actively concerned about saving the Borrego Valley aquifer. It appears here by permission of the author.

Digger - December 07, 2014

BWC Confused, Conflicted, and Less Than Forthcoming

Ray Shindler
Borrego Springs, California

After Vice President of the Borrego Water District (BWD) Board Lyle Brecht's comments before the Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group on Thursday, 04 December 2014, it is clear that the Borrego Water Coalition's Groundwater Sustainability Plan Policy Recommendations (Recommendations) are structurally/fatally flawed.

After repeated questioning form Becky Falk and Rich Caldwell of the sponsor group Brecht finally admitted that if there is not adequate funding to buy AG lands then the farmers may declare the scheme as non-binding and opt out of the provisions. That provision was put in to placate the farmers concerns. To put it another way -- the language contained in point 4 of the Recommendations means exactly what it says.

Brecht admitted the State will not likely accept a plan that includes such language and that a lawsuit is likely to result from all of this at some point.

Brecht still maintains that the only outcome of an adjudication is the Water District would only receive 10 percent of the 5,600 acre feet (safe yield) or 560 acre feet. He does not explain that is only one possible outcome and that the water district could just as well get their current 2,000 acre feet in an adjudication.

Brecht denied that the plan requires development money to be successful -- even though the BWC's own meeting minutes call for bonding and private purchases (development) as the best choices to buy AG lands/water. He barely mentioned bonds. Probably because of criticism of who will pay back the bonds -- BWD ratepayers.

There has been much criticism of the long time-lines to achieve sustainability. Brecht's answer is that those dates are only the deadlines, and that no one expects it to take that long -- 2040. I would like to ask the farmers their perspective on this. I'm sure they will say -- sure, we expect to achieve 70 percent reductions much faster than the time-lines call for. Not likely. If you want to do this faster then move the deadlines up -- period!

I have talked to three members of the Borrego Water Coalition now. One said the plan is so complicated he did not see how all the pieces were going to come together and be successful. Another admitted point four was to placate Agriculture. They obviously will not accept a plan that does not guarantee buyouts. The third individual was wrong about the opt-out language in point four -- saying that the farmers would still have to make the reductions. Not so as it turns out. There is obviously confusion in the BWC ranks about what they have done. It really depends on what you think is the outcome you are seeking.

The Borrego Water District should be encouraged to abandon this scheme and work with the language given to us by the new Sustainable Groundwater Management Legislation which allows a water agency to "limit and suspend extractions from wells."

Think of a potential lawsuit this way. If we give agriculture 2,000 acre feet of water in a plan, they can accept that or sue. The best they can do in adjudication is get 70 percent of the safe yield, or about 3,500 acre feet of water. Would they decide to spend up to a million dollars to only get 1,500 acre feet more water than a the plan already gave them?

No where in the legislation does it say you have to compensate AG for their water loss. The reason is that anything over safe yield is water taken illegally. Farmers have illegally been taking water for about 50 years from our aquifer. No compensation is necessary. Why burden everyone with millions of dollars in costs to bail out a few farmers. We do not own them a living. Farming in the Borrego Valley is just not sustainable.

Mind you, this comes from someone who grew up on a wheat and cattle ranch. Still owns it. And, was a lobbyist for 17 years for many agricultural associations.

At the Washington State legislature we (agriculture) would get into water fights and always threaten adjudication. Everyone would back away. The last thing we wanted was adjudication because it costs so much and we always lose water as a result. That strategy has so far worked well for the farmers here in Borrego.

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