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The Pumper's Ploy

Digger - April 20, 2015

In a letter to the BWD board dated 11 February 2015, Jim Moxham, who represents Borrego Springs Resort on the Borrego Water Cabal (BWC), sought guidance from the Borrego Water District's legal counsel on how to "insure (sic) that the BWC has a seat at the table for the purpose of development, implementation, and governance of the GSP." ("GSP" refers to the BWD's yet to be developed Groundwater Sustainability Plan.) According to Moxham, who purports to be writing "For the Borrego Water Coaliton," the BWC "desires to remain directly involved" in the roll-out of the GSP in order "to insure (sic) its compatibility with our [BWC's] recommendations and member needs." The receipt of the letter was acknowledged in a brief summary of the BWD board meeting on February 25, 2015 published by the Borrego Sun, but no information about the board's reaction to it, if any, was provided.

The above referenced letter is troublesome on several levels. In the first instance, it is not clear whether it expresses the wishes of the BWC as a whole, only the pumper majority of the BWC (of which Moxham is a member), or only Moxham. Second, as an advisory body to BWD the members of which presumably serve at the invitation and pleasure of the agency, why should BWC be granted any sort of legal status to guarantee its continued existence? Third, given the shoddy and biased work product delivered by the BWC after two years of secret meetings, what is the justification for granting it any sort of official status in its present form?

As presently constituted, the BWC is overwhelmingly weighted in favor of the pumpers. Of the 17 voting members four represent agriculture; four more represent "recreation," a euphemism for golf courses; 1 represents resorts and lodging, which depend heavily on golfers for business and often incorporate golf courses; one represents the school district which, according to the representative herself, depends on agriculture to provide sufficient students to continue operation; one represents a "public use area," i.e. Christmas Circle Community Park Foundation, which historically has adamantly opposed curtailing water use; three, all from the Borrego Water District, claim to represent District rate-payers but are limited in their ability to do so because, in fact, they must represent the interests of all registered voters in the District which includes virtually all of the pumpers in the valley; one represents the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park but, curiously, has opposed policies that would encourage agriculture to leave the valley, a necessary condition for achieving sustainability; business and commercial interests are represented by an employee of the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce which, like the constituency of the BWD, includes pumpers. That leaves only the employee of the Anza-Borrego Foundation, one voting member out of 17, charged with representing watersheds and desert ecosystems, who has no obvious conflict of interest with efforts to reduce groundwater use to sustainable levels. Some odds.

If the BWD board accedes to Moxham's request they will prolong the flagrant disproportionate influence of pumpers over the BWC, indefinitely delay difficult decisions that must be taken immediately, ensure that decisions actually made - if any - are overwhelmingly favorable to pumpers at the expense of the general population, and tacitly endorse the depletion of the Borrego Valley aquifer in service to the pumper's short-term pursuit of profit - likely the unstated but intended purpose of the letter in the first place.

The BWD would be far better served by politely thanking the members for their efforts and sending them on their separate ways. That would permit the District to get on with its responsibility to ensure a sustainable water supply for the Valley by reducing water use to the safe yield of the basin in a timely fashion and they should do so forthwith.

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