The Kern Water Bank Authority held its Tuesday, August 6, 2019 board of directors at its Bakersfield headquarters. It was a hot afternoon in the South Valley. I’ve got a theory about the climate change folks; they must have never worked outside in the summertime. Glad I don’t have to anymore. I like the climate to change when I turn on the air conditioner. There was even a director – I’m not saying which one – wore shorts. That caused a stir.

KWB Chairman Bill Phillimore started as close to 3:00pm as possible. Right off the bat he announced the need for an additional agenda item to take into account a long awaited agreement with California Fish & Wildlife. Remember when it used to be Fish & Game? The board agreed and approved the minutes. Danelle Lopez gave the Treasurer’s report including the accounts payable. The board approved as well. Just about then Directors Bill Taube and Rob Yraceburu walked in. It made me think of the line in the Superman stories about how you never see Clark Kent and Superman in a photo together. Then we had some fun while attorney Steve Torigiani tried to connect to the meeting by phone. It took Lopez a bit of fancy finger work to get that deed accomplished, but she did.

General Manager Jon Parker updated the board on SGMA. The KGA GSP is almost ready for public review. Parker had a draft and shared the highlights. He said KWB is a square peg in the SGMA round hole. It doesn’t use water, it only stores water and has already gone through extensive CEQA and other permitting. The bank has increased the groundwater levels, it doesn’t bring in salts, land hasn’t subsided in fact it’s risen .75 of a foot in the past 22-years. Its management actions are those developed by DWR in the mitigation measures it wrote. Groundwater levels have improved up to five-miles from the bank. Groundwater quality is better even though some of the water coming from the California Aqueduct isn’t all that pure. The Kern Fan’s water has improved since the bank began operation. DWR analyzed the data as well and is OK with the GSP. Beginning August 9th the administrative draft will be released with a brief presentation to the Kern Groundwater Authority board. Public review is August 30th through November 29th. On December 13th the response to comments will be compiled with the final chapters presented to the KGA. The KGA board is scheduled to provide approval on January 22, 2020 and then I guess they turn it into the DWR. The KWB has not taken in any white lands or other properties so it should be clear of any problems from other GSAs in the KGA. Good for them. The board approved the release of the administrative draft GSP.

Phillimore then spoke on the last minute item. He said after a meeting with the engineering committee a question came up about using the KWB Canal while a pump station is being built. It could cause a delay of up to three months of usage. Semitropic WSD GM Jason Gianquinto said his district would like to keep the canal open until the end of the recharge season. Kim Brown, Sheridan Nichols and pretty much everyone else wanted to keep the canal open. Yraceburu pointed out opening the pump station for bid right now may not yield as accurate a bid with contractors not knowing the start date. The building of the actual pumps is a six month ordeal and Superintendent Nick Torres said there are large portions of the project that could be constructed without dewatering the canal. The tie in could wait but doing the project in two phases could raise the costs. These pumps will be custom made and the recharge season could be until next January. As Phillimore said no matter when construction starts everyone will be nervous about getting the canal back into operation. You need to do these types of projects during droughts. Gianquinto said one way to do this is to set a timeline in the bid. The matter was moved back to the engineering committee for further study. For so many organizations that would be the same as tabling the project until the planets align. You watch, that’s opposite of how KWB works. The committee will return with options on time.

Parker continued with staff reports saying recharge is continuing at 770 cfs with 245,000 a/f banked so far this year. Groundwater levels are growing more and more shallow. Staff is keeping an eye out for over saturated basins. He said no artisan wells have showed up yet. The bike path is still pedaling forward. Rosedale Rio Bravo is looking at developing ponds to the north of the bank and will start circulating notice later this year. I wasn’t sure about what I heard but I believe there is some pushback from DWR about installing another turnout on the Aqueduct due to subsidence.

Parker then reported on construction and capitalized maintenance work. Four projects have been completed and another three or so are either waiting or underway. Parker said some of the project priorities are being shifted around to accommodate the recharge needs. There are three $750,000 replacement well projects that need to start. Rigs are available. It sounded like Parker had identified the money in the budget and it’s cheaper to fix it now. The board agreed and the wells will be fixed. Some of the other, older wells don’t video so good but they still produce like crazy.

There are grants under the Integrated Regional Water Management for up to $3 million for new basins and such. Provost & Pritchard has agreed to prepare the grant for $20,000 and the board said go for it. Caltrans has been asking for habitat credits. One request is for a quarter of an acre on the Kern River for the Buena Vista shrew. It was said that might be a request better suited to the City of Bakersfield. Cattle are still grazing happily on the bank. The meeting then went into closed session.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2019 by Don A. Wright

KERN WATER BANK AUTHORITY

1620 Mill Rock Way, Bakersfield, CA 93311 Office: 661/398-4900 www.kwb.org

Staff: Jon Parker-General Manager, Danelle Lopez-Accountant, Steve Torigiani-Attorney, Nick Torres-Superintendent

Board: William Phillimore-Chair Westside Mutual Water Company, William Taube-Vice Chair Wheeler Ridge Maricopa Water Storage District, Steve Jackson-Treasurer Dudley Ridge Water District, Dennis Atkinson Tejon Castac Water District, David Beard KCWA Improvement District 4, Wilmar Boschman Semitropic Water Storage District & Kim Brown Westside Mutual Water Company

Kern Water Bank Located on a large, undeveloped section of the Kern River’s sandy alluvial fan, the Kern Water Bank covers nearly 30 square miles over California’s southern San Joaquin Valley. Ideally situated, both for its unique geology and its proximity to water supply and delivery systems, the Kern Water Bank plays a dual role in California’s economically vital agricultural heartland.