Digger - 10 January 2020
Rebecca Falk is Chair of the Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group and represented the Group on the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) Advisory Committee. In her "Viewpoint" "Let's Talk About Water" she describes herself as "disheartened that the public process for discussing and shaping a water plan for Borrego in compliance with state law was abandoned in disdain of the kind of public participation" with which it had begun.
In 2017 BWD formed a partnership with San Diego County to address the overdraft of the Borrego Valley aquifer and create a GSP through a public process. In early 2019, "private negotiations" with representatives of agriculture and golf courses about the latter's 'water rights' began. The private negotiations quickly expanded to include "all potentially controversial parts of a groundwater management plan" and the public process was abandoned, thereby excluding the Advisory Committee from the decision making process. The Advisory Committee, however, was only informed of the extent of the negotiations in July 2019 after which there was but one scheduled meeting before the Committee was dissolved in October 2019. While BWD claimed to represent ratepayers in the private process, it ended direct public participation. Proposals to include safeguards for Borrego in the final product were consistently rebuffed on grounds that they might trigger a law suit or because there were "legal complications" in implementing them.
"The already negotiated restructured agreement [by now known as the Stipulated Agreement] decides the rules for water matters and [residents of Borrego Springs] will be left scrambling to deal with its consequences." Pumpers already appear to be making arrangements to act on knowledge that only they have, e. g. accumulating water rights and planning for development inimical to the community's best interests.
As an alternative to this private process the State could be allowed to step in and enforce mandatory metering and reporting of water use by pumpers and impose other measures unless all parties cooperate to arrive at a publicly created agreement.
Falk's understanding is that BWD will consider public comments and then decide whether or not to sign the Stipulated Agreement/water plan and then, if signed, submit it to a court. She is unaware of any plan for altering the document except to return it to the negotiators who struggled to agree on a plan in the first place and, in any case, warns against surrendering Borrego Springs' future of "to a handful of people or corporations who have been overpumping our water."
Falk, Rebecca, Viewpoint: "Let's Talk Water," Borrego Sun 11/28/2019,p. 8.
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