What follows is the text of remarks that Ray Schindler, a resident of Borrego Springs, CA, made to the Borrego Water District board at its December 2014 meeting and again at the District's Town Hall meeting in March 2015. They appear here by permission of the author.
April 7, 2015
I urge the BWD [Borrego Water District] to reject the BWC [Borrego Water Coalition] proposed scheme and look towards the groundwater sustainability act for solutions to prevent our aquifer from being drained.
The BWC proposal has only seen the light of day for a few weeks and now we know that it is structurally/fatally flawed.
Point number four in the [BWC] proposal means exactly what it says. Any member of the coalition may declare as non-binding the elements contained in the proposal if adequate funding is not available. This opt-out solution provides a loophole big enough to drive a farm truck through. It is very unlikely to be approved by the State.
At the Last meeting I discussed the problems inherent in the funding scheme: Questionable development and bond debt. Nowhere in the bill passed by the legislature this summer does it say as a precondition for achieving sustainability you need to buy out the agricultural corporations that farm here. This proposal goes way beyond the sustainability legislation as passed.
Everyone believes the timelines are too long. Every year we wait we drain the aquifer that much further. We have heard from the BWC no one expects it to take that long. The answer then is to move up the deadlines. You cannot expect the agricultural corporations to voluntarily make reductions before they have to.
The legislation gives the groundwater sustainability agency several options to consider in order to save our aquifer.
One is purchasing AG lands -- willing buyers and sellers. That option is already there and will always be there.
Another option is adjudication. The legislation puts adjudication on the table for consideration. It even offers up ways to pay for it through fees from water users and the water rights fund. The legislative intent is to develop a streamlined adjudication process next year.
Maybe the best solution offered by the legislation in section two of the bill simply says the groundwater sustainability agency has the authority to limit or suspend groundwater extractions from wells. The intent could not be more straight forward than that. In contrast the BWC scheme is much more complicated, time-consuming, costly, and ultimately unworkable.
We could simply say to the agricultural corporations, starting in 2020 we create a formula that ends in 2030 that will reduce water use to the identified 5,600 acre feet of water to achieve sustainability.
Now, you may say the agricultural corporations will sue because they will only get about 2,000 acre feet of water in the final solution. It's important to keep in mind,that under any scenario there will be almost no agriculture in the Borrego valley.
The farmers will need to make an interesting calculation. If they sue, go to adjudication, the best they can do is get the 70 percent ratio they currently use from the aquifer -- or about 3,500 acre feet of water. That's their upper limit. Will they spend up to a million dollars of their own money to only get, at the most, 1,500 more acre feet of water than given to them in the plan? That doesn't make much sense.
In the meantime I would suggest the BWD start as soon as possible to install the fees and use that money to purchase Ag water to ensure under any scenario you have locked up enough water for future growth.
Finally, in regards to the BWC scheme -- where I come from -- a farming area in eastern Washington -- someone would be saying right now "this dog don't hunt."
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