The Buena Vista Water Storage District’s board of directors met on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at its Buttonwillow headquarters. One of the cool Directors, Jeof Wyrick, couldn’t attend due to the closing of I-5. I think there was a fire Near Santa Clarita. He was on the phone and attorney Gene McMurtrey believed due to the emergency nature Wyrick could participate although he didn’t jump through the usual Brown Act hoops. Chairman John Vidovich called the meeting at 8:30am. The minutes were approved, there were no public comments and McMurtrey had an addition to the agenda regarding McAllister Ranch. This item was added in closed session. I didn’t hear anything pulled from the consent calendar and staff gave the financial report.
Director Terry Chicca and Vidovich were on the budget committee. The assessment stayed the same at $38 per acre and the toll was also the same at $22.50. BVWSD has a good reserve so there was no need to raise the amounts. A grower said with the incentive from solar savings sometimes pumping is more financially attractive than surface water. He was encouraged to talk the fine points of that over with General Manage Tim Ashlock.
Ashlock said BV has 35,000 a/f of carryover in Lake Isabella. He said there could be either a pre-irrigation run for cotton or bank a good 10,000 a/f in January. Semitropic WSD is banking water at BV for $30 a/f. Grower Rod Steifvater said he’d like the information on what opportunities there are for private or third-party banking. He was told there is a committee to handle this and although third-party banking has yet to be approved it looks like the board is heading that way.
Chicca reported the well drillers have drilled 10 wells. It’s a two man operation and Ashlock said there needs to be a $164,000 and a $81,000 purchase order connected to this project. The money will go to pay for pipes and valves to move water around. BV has a brackish groundwater recovery project. We talked about this last month and if I recall correctly brackish is a bit of a misnomer. Chicca said the EC is 900 and Ashlock said the cap is 12,000 a/f per year. The board OK’d the purchase order.
Vidovich said with the California Water Fix ramping down to one tunnel the district could pay $1,500 per a/f. It could happen the district loses money even selling out of district. Or the district could make money on this. Vidovich said BV could pick up 275 percent of its share because of other districts opting out. Chicca said this is a board decision but to consider urban purchases could be the driver. Both Chicca and Vidovich said it is a gamble. Owning capacity in the tunnel will be an advantage to getting more Article 21 Water. The cost of the project as one tunnel is estimated at $10.2 billion. Vidovich said the Kern County Water Agency represents a fourth of the State Water Project contract – that’s $2.5 billion. Vidovich said his intuition is to opt in. Say what you want about Vidovich but I think his success as a businessman is well proven. He said the Delta is made of sinking, peat islands that are dissolving. The SWP was supposed to have a Peripheral Canal, but a lawsuit involving Boswell and Wegis helped stop that. Vidovich also said this public works project will take clean water through the Delta. Wyrick said many of the west side district have opted out because the price of water is too high for ag. He pointed out BV is the only ag district looking to take more than its share and that’s raising eyebrows. Director John Cauzza said he’s confident BV can stay viable on the SWP without getting in a position to owe such a great amount to the CWF bonds. Wyrick said it would be a leap of faith and the environmental lawsuits makes it a zero certainty project. Vidovich said a situation is going to be created where only those who subscribe to the CWF will get the extra water. He said he’d rather gamble now to be in the process then bail later. Wyrick recommended any future CWF considerations need to go to the full board instead of just the committee. There certainly are many unanswered questions swirling around the CWF. Greg Wegis, a grower asked what the fall back position will be for BV should this not work out. Steifvater said he was amazed and surprised BV announced it was looking at opting into the CWF. He said while he’d like to see the CWF be successful he felt having a two man committee make any decision would be entire improper or even worse. He said Wheeler Ridge Maricopa WSD held five landowner meetings. He actually suggested this might be an illegal move by BV. He said the landowners must be far more informed to prevent a rash of lawsuits. He said CWF potentially provides more water for Kern County and there may not be that opportunity for that again. McMurtrey said committees can be formed but they can’t bind the district. The committee made a placeholder move and this needs to go before the landowners as well. Vidovich said the committee had a deadline of October 12th to express an interest in CWF and felt it would give the district and advantage. Chicca said he’s not backing out on his decision but a decision had to be made. Vidovich stated he won’t try to push his views on the board or landowners but at this point he said the matter is now before the entire board. Ted Page, President of the KCWA said that organization could host a landowner meeting for BV. Page said BV’s move was political and I think he felt this helps move things along. Vidovich told Ashlock to get together with KCWA GM Curtis Creel and hold numerous landowner meetings. McMurtrey said DWR is trying to validate CWF is part of the original SWP and that would force every SWP member to pay for the CWF. The Kern Fan Authority has decided to oppose the validation action and BV is a member. This is a lawsuit challenge taking place in a Sacramento courtroom. This doesn’t strike anyone as cancelling out. Chicca said he’s hearing concerns and he would like BV to remain at the original 100 percent share but it’s staying at 275. The board will go forward at that level of buy-in and the landowner meetings.
The meeting then went into closed session.
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Buena Vista Water Storage District was organized in 1924 to manage the irrigation, drainage systems and water rights originally held by Miller & Lux. The district controls an average 130,000 a/f of Kern River water and approximately 21,000 a/f of supplies from the State Water Project. BVWSD is its own GSA. Board of Directors meetings are held the 3rd Wednesday of the month at district headquarters located at: 525 North Main Street, Buttonwillow, CA 93206. Phone: 661/324-1101 www.bvh20.com General Manager: Maurice Etchechury, Engineer: Tim Ashlock, Attorney: Robert Hartsock. Board-President: John Vidovich, VP: Terry Chicca, Secretary: Jeof Wyrick, John Cauzza, Larry Ritchie