The Buena Vista Water Storage District’s board of directors met on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at its Buttonwillow headquarters. Getting to Buttonwillow can be a journey when one gets behind a slow truck on Highway 41. So, I walked in the meeting at 8:31 after Chairman John Vidovich called it to order at 8:30am. Just in time to hear the board appoint former district engineer Tim Ashlock to the position of interim General Manager. Former BVWSD GM Maurice Etchechury, as I understand it, has begun to transition into retirement. Then they approved the minutes and there were no public comments. Two items were pulled from the consent calendar and the treasurer’s report was approved. This could be a short meeting.
The board talked about hiring a strategic planning consultant. Two Directors: John Cauzza and Terry Chicca had meet with someone from Delotte but were underwhelmed. Attorney Gene McMurtrey said he’s been through many of these strategy sessions and having a facilitator is mucho important to prevent the whole show from turning into a painful exercise in futility. He recommended Martin Rosch, who did some excellent work with Friant.
Evidently somewhere in BV’s past it got sideways on a deal setting up an electrical power generation facility at the McAllister Ranch area of Kern County. It was circuitous, the history and the discussion. If I understood correctly there were five guys on the power board getting a stipend and land for sitting in those seats. There was a legal wrangle and as it turns out BV got the land and control back. So the board will look into getting some power for the district. There’s a warehouse somewhere with a trash can full of copper wire waiting to be installed.
The Northern Pipeline Grower Connection item was moved to closed session. BV is expecting to bank all of its State Water Project water on BV facilities by the end of October. That leaves room for 35,000-40,000 a/f or up to 300 cfs in November and December. Vidovich said there are goals the district will need money to achieve and that could mean selling water and/or banking fees. Ashlock said he’s heard Semi Tropic has some extra capacity. I think the board wants to bank at BV and recover elsewhere. SGMA may prevent this someday so they have to get busy now. A lot of growers have access to water outside of the district they farm in and this would be another example of flexibility in transfers, but it is water in California after all and no matter what there’s a pretty good chance the State Committee for Making Everything a Dam Problem will raise its head.
The district has some property near Milan Road that would benefit from some infrastructure – a $2 million pump station. I think there is a two acre plot the district would need to purchase to complete the deal. Vidovich said the Main Drain isn’t the best conveyance and this looks expensive. Ashlock agreed the money could take away from other projects. He said BV has new software that shows how the system will best benefit from different alterations. He said this can give the big picture and develop a plan in the district rationally instead of following the development infrastructure with a plan.
The board then considered what to do with the Palms Recharge area. There were alternatives and Ashlock said banking for others could help pay for the costs of digging new ponds. Vidovich said he’d like to see Cauzza monitor this and if he sees a problem to go to Ashlock and get it fixed. Under McMurtrey’s prompting Cauzza was appointed as a committee of one. He evidently knows the project better than anyone. Cauzza said the impact of this project is at the southern end of the project and the growers in that area aren’t happy. He said this needs to be solved in the long run. Chicca asked if the district guaranteed surface deliveries would the growers be willing to give up some groundwater. Vidovich said he’s talked with some of the folks in the area and using the Semi Tropic WSD model BV could pay the well owners when they have capacity. Cauzza said that helps but West Kern WD’s pumping in the area is driving up pump costs. There is also an EIR that needs to be completed.
Another project BV is looking at is a brackish water project. This involves drilling 20 wells and the drilling contractor isn’t really keeping up. He’s got eight drilled and it sounds like his rig is being repaired more than drilling. Due to grant funding the board would like to continue. Director Geoff Wyrick said since the testing is even further behind what’s it matter if the wells aren’t ready? The board will continue the project. I asked how does the district sell brackish water and come to find out most of the wells drilled have salt levels usable for ag. I hoped they were going to tell me they found the holy grail of on-site desal but in this case brackish was a bit of misnomer. Also the Seventh Standard Road Pipeline won a $1 million Water Smart Grant from the US Bureau of Reclamation.
The board considered the Prop One funding grant. This is the $1 million per sub basin grant to help produce GSPs. The board is on board with this and the meeting 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