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Kern Groundwater Authority GSA December 14, 2023

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By Don A. Wright

The Kern Groundwater Authority Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its Thursday, December 14, 2023 board meeting in Bakersfield and online with Zoom. This is the time of year you have to pay attention to meeting schedules closely. We are blessed with a tradition of celebrating the birth of Christ as a time of year known as Christmas. It’s the biggest deal there is holiday-wise. At one point the Superbowl might have approached the far, far out boundary of the universe of Christmas’ successful public participation, at least in the US. But the holy competition was too much for a sporting event and the halftime entertainment has been going downhill since the last time ZZ Top played. Anyway, back to my point, schedules change to make room for folks to spend time with their families, friends and loved ones. They move, they cancel, they reschedule, postpone – meetings sometimes don’t happen this time of year.

The Meeting

The meeting began at 8:00am with a flag salute led by Chairman Dan Waterhouse. There were no public comments and the minutes were approved. The treasurer’s report was next and Executive Director Patty Poire gave the board an update on what’s going with last month’s cash flow and such. The board must have liked what she said and approved the report.Brandt Water Treatment

Attorney’s Report

            Valerie Kincade gave the board an update on legal matters saying DWR is moving toward its January 31st deadline to determine which subbasins’ Groundwater Sustainability Plan are adequate and which are not – naughty or nice so to speak. Tulare Lake Subbasin is looking down the maw of a State Water Resources Control Board take over. There are five or six other subbasins, including Kern in the same line of sight.

The New York Times released an article today that shows how the press thinks California water works. It pits farmer against farmer and may be an omen of the slant against existing water rights other publications will ape. Gear up, there’s going to be a fight this coming year.

Executive Report

Poire gave the Board a second look at the 2024 draft budget. She said Provost & Pritchard is going to continue to work on the administrative and host the website. P&P has been very clear they are not looking to replace the engineering services. Poire is retiring at the end of this year and more work will be done by Kincade and others so the new budget will reflect that.

The KGA has a two tiered membership. As SGMA had matured some agencies and Groundwater Sustainability Agencies have opted to move out and form other groundwater groups. But they had to keep one toe in the KGA and still have to carry some of the expenses. These expenses have been administrative and not activity agreements. The budget numbers caused some heartburn for some of the associate members.

I think it was David Hampton, General Manager of North Kern Water Storage District who wanted to limit his district’s expense. That raised the question of how much should the associate members contribute to find the value level from those expenditures. Kincade pointed out leaving KGA could place the White Areas in a difficult position and that could end up with one of the leaving entities gaining more White Area.

Semitropic Water Storage District GM Jason Gianquinto pointed out with or without KGA membership there are still costs to be incurred. Either way there will be attorney fees and other costs. Kincade said almost all of the budget has been reduced to administrative costs. I believe it was John Gaugel of Cawelo Water District who suggested making the cash call a quarterly event with an opt out for associate members in June.TechnoFlo

Royce Fast said most of the expenses of the KGA had has gone to other groups and all that is left is the overarching administrative expense. Kincade said there are ways to make a motion to allow for opting out. A motion was made to approve the budget as is and Kim Brown, Kern Water Bank added the amendment to have the cash calls be quarterly. She said the KGA and the Kern Subbasin as a whole is looking at an unclear future. That amendment to the motion was accepted. Gaugel asked if there would be someone hired to help take up Poire’s work and I wasn’t sure the response.

The question was called and on a roll call vote to accept the budget with quarterly cash calls. There were four nays and the six ayes won.

Lidco Inc.

More Financials

The next item was the Rincon Invoice and Poire said the original invoice was to be split amongst eight managers. I believe Rincon is a subcontractor and charged for work that some of the members questioned. There were some questions that centered around the Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley charges and if those charges were duplicate to other Blueprint expenditures separate from the KGA. Poire gave the board an update on how the time was split and billed. The board voted to pay the bill.

Moving on the Kern Subbasin has been working with Lawrance Livermore Laboratory to do a subsidence study. The KGA got a partial refund and the board approved giving the members their money back.

The last action item under the Ex Direct report regards Todd Groundwater’s Scope of Work for rewriting the Groundwater Sustainability Plan for a grant. This will include a rewrite of the Basin Setting. Todd sent a proposal and the board was asked to review and approve the new study. Poire said there is money in the budget to cover those costs. The board approved.

An informational item was next and it was about DWR’s new guidelines for annual reports. Poire said one of the requirements is to show the implementation of the GSP in the annual report. One of the requirements is to show the exceedances and hydrographs. If I’m remembering correctly the hydrographs used have to come from DWR’s SGMA Portal, the official state SGMA website. The reason given is to ensure uniformity throughout the data, but the data to create the hydrographs are given to DWR by the GSAs.

Poire said some of the data may be skewed, if I understood her correctly. Some of the well data wasn’t handled correctly and the amount of exceedances will be used to as a metric to the GSP progress. It sounds like the goal posts are being moved again. One of the wells listed is dry and one has had a mechanical failure and I think they were misreported.

This ties into GEI Engineering’s data management system costs and that involves the Kern Subbasin Coordination Committee and someone wanted to renegotiate the contract with GEI. A lady spoke named Stephanie, I think she works for GEI and she said she found out it was going to cost another $30,000 over budget that spilled over into the new year. Someone accused the KGA of withholding this information and to Waterhouse’s credit he shut that down. Brown stepped in with a voice of reason and said as things have progressed there needs to be better coordination with the Coordination Committee. Kincade and Gianquinto both said the DMS is a subbasin-wide issue.

New Business & Correspondence

Waterhouse thanked Poire for her ability to take slings and arrows and many of the directors joined in praising her hard work and diligence. I would like to add my appreciation to Poire for her willingness to provide me with open communication. Not once did she shy from my questions or imply I was a dummy for asking the obvious. All of us at wish her the best of success in her next adventure.

There was one letter mentioned as a correspondence item. Waterhouse said the correspondence was addressed with a reply. And that was all that was said about the matter in the meeting.

However, here’s the deal. Some NGOs were upset over what they claim was a statement from last month’s meeting regarding a board member referring to a Black person as Black. They felt that was wrong and that’s their right to feel that way. So, they wrote a letter. Language around race has become a bit of a minefield. These same NGOs have referred to people of negro heritage as BIPOC, which stands for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. Which in itself is a questionable term. We’re all indigenous, we are all people of color – but only Blacks are singled out.

Anyway, in the letter the speaker was quoted as using “Black” with a capital letter. Within the past month I have personally spoken with – while in Mississippi mind you – a BIPOC scholar of negro heritage who referred to himself as both Black and negro. To further complicate matters all three signatories of the letter had either Asian or Hispanic surnames. You may recall the two DWR employees, while on the clock for racial equity, racially and sexually profiled elected officials at all the state’s water agencies by looking at their names on the websites. (That report was quickly quashed.) Is this cultural appropriation? To decide for someone of a different race how they should be referred to?

The letter stated, “. . . no KGA board member, nor the attorney present reprimanded this board member for his statement,” and, “It is wholly inappropriate to discuss any person this way, dismissively referring to their race as their only identifying feature.” Is it wholly inappropriate to dismissively refer to someone, like an attorney, using their profession as the only identifying feature? And in addition to their race the person was also at least identified as a State Board Member.

The letter’s summary statement was, “In the future, we suggest KGA representatives refrain from making derogatory comments and conduct themselves in a professional manner.”

The NGOs sent this letter to a public agency and it is now a public document. Take it from me, as someone who has written many an error – when you write something erroneously, you need to correct it and move on. Especially if you have also gone so far as to suggest how someone else should conduct themselves in a professional manner.

I was in the room when the statement referred to was made. I was physically present at last month’s KGA meeting. I can tell you – it wasn’t a KGA board member who said it.

Closed Session

The meeting adjourned at 9:33am with two matters of a legal nature and one employee item. Go be good to each other and yourselves.

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SGMA The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 calls for the formation of Groundwater Sustainability Areas within Basins and Sub-basins to develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans.

Staff: Patty Poire – Executive Director, Valerie Kincade – Attorney

The Kern Groundwater Authority membership:

Chair Dan Waterhouse – Semitropic WSD, Royce Fast – Kern County WA, Andrew Pandol – Kern Tulare WD, Kim Brown – Kern Water Bank Authority, Gary Morris – West Kern WD & Rob Goff – Westside District Water Authority.

Brandon Morris – Southern San Joaquin MUD, John Gaugel – Cawelo WD, Kevin Andrew – North Kern WSD, Gary Unruh – Rosedale Rio Bravo WSD, Randy Bloemhof – Shafter Wasco ID

DWR Listing: Basin San Joaquin, Sub Basin Kern 5-022.14