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Lundavid, LLC, c/o Brian Villalobos, Petra Geotechnical, Inc., 3185-A Airway Avenue, CostaMesa, CA 92626, has filed an application to appropriate water by permit. The applicant has proposed to divert water from Coyote Creek in San Diego County to underground storage for later use within the Borrego Water District service area.

For more information about this application go to: http://www.waterrights.ca.gov/Application/ApplNot.htm

Analysis of a Flim-Flam: Coyote Creek Recharge Project

A copy of the above notice appeared recently on the bulletin board at the Borrego Springs post office. A 1988 USGS study reports that Coyote Creek accounts for 65% of the naturally occurring annual recharge of the Borrego valley aquifer. Apparently developers and others who exploit Borrego’s water for fun and profit are no longer willing to wait until the water reaches the aquifer before appropriating and monetizing it.

On its face, the Viking Ranch project is suspect because it seems untenable; yet the developer, Prospect Capital Group/Lance Lundberg/Lundavid, LLC, is pursuing it doggedly without ever acknowledging, let alone addressing, the many potentially insurmountable obstacles of which he is surely aware. It doesn’t pass the sniff test.

It is passing strange that the developer has the temerity to ask BWD to act as the lead-agency in pursuing the myriad permits, etc., that will be required, pay for construction of the recharge system, maintain the system, and then agree to pay the developer for the water injected into the aquifer, if any. It is especially troubling when, except for the developer’s consulting hydrologist, expert opinion is unanimous in concluding that the amount of water over and above the naturally occurring recharge – the only water they will be permitted to capture and take credit for – will be miniscule or non-existent most years.

There is also something unseemly about the developer’s zealous promotion of creating a “replenishment district” to raise money for the above because BWD can do so and levy fees on residents of the district without a vote. That sounds more like an end run to line their pockets at the expense of residents of the proposed replenishment district than a “community benefit” as the developer has euphemistically characterized it.

Lin Burzell, BWD’s District Engineer for many years, minced no words in his assessment of the project:

All they are doing is taking water that would percolate anyway so they can get (mitigation) credit for it.” In addition, they also want to be paid for it. If they are able to achieve both, it will amount to double-dipping since they will receive mitigation credit and payment for the same water. In effect, what they are “grabbing” is only “paper water;” but, in addition to ripping-off BWD and the residents of Borrego, they will divert the attention of the worthies on the BWD board from measures that would actually reduce the overdraft to one that will absorb all of their time, limited attention, and puny efforts for years and result only in the enrichment of the developer, impoverishment of the BWD and residents of the proposed replenishment district, and ultimate destruction of the aquifer.

John Peterson, retired San Diego county hydrogeologist who monitored groundwater in the valley for more than 20 years, has said that “the quantity of water recharged would be insignificant compared to the volume of groundwater extraction.” It is also trivial with respect to the cost of building and maintaining the recharge system. Peterson went on to say that “the best and most reliable solution to the Borrego valley overdraft is a reduction in groundwater production.” It is, in fact, the only solution.

Finally, all of these serious concerns are aggravated by the BWD board’s obvious total inability to analyze, understand, negotiate, or manage anything – let alone a legally and technically complex project such as this one. The reason the developer is anxious to have BWD act as lead-agency on the project rather than San Diego county is undoubtedly that the developer rightly recognizes BWD as a soft-target for these self-serving schemes. It will be like leading lambs to slaughter.

See also: Viking Ranch Chronology

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