The Kern Water Bank Authority held its Tuesday, July 11, 2023 board of directors in Bakersfield. I haven’t been here since 2021 and these guys never heard of Zooming meetings if they don’t have to do so. That’s a shame because they have cameras and two 75” big screens in a relatively small room. So it was exactly like an opportunity to see old friends. Bill Phillimore is still the chair and he’s still in control of his British punctuality. Thank God some things don’t change. Jon Parker is still General Manager and has retained his eye for good photography. Kim Brown is still the smartest person in the room. Steve Torigiani is still the attorney you want on your side. This is starting to sound a little too butt kissy and I don’t want any jealousy from those gathered but not mentioned so I’ll say everyone there was a welcomed sight.
On the dot Phillimore started the meeting at 3:00pm and introduced a new employee who has worked for half the entities represented, I think his name is Emilio Viagaria. Good for him. The minutes were approved and Danelle Lopez gave the treasurer’s report. It was put out there, the further behind on payments a member is the more alternates show up. Good point. The report was approved and the bills were paid.
For the second time today, I was graced with the opportunity to hear an audit report. Only this time it was less painful because to my delight I misread the agenda. The board wasn’t going to sit through an audit report but rather asked to pick a firm to conduct the audit. There will not be two CPAs next year to do the books and do the audit. The current auditor needs to sit it out. The other firm, Brown is excited to get to do the audit for under $31,000. Lopez said for the past decade the internal preparation of financial documents has been smooth. The board agreed.
A public hearing was held to consider adopting a resolution to form the Kern Water Bank Authority Groundwater Sustainability Agency. This is a new GSA to cover the KWB lands under SGMA as an exclusive GSA. This is about 20,000 acres.
Parker said the KWB is currently in the Kern Groundwater Authority GSA and in light of the failure of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan KWB and other entities have decided to write their own GSP.* Since the Water Bank owns all of its land and that land is almost all recharge staff and the board felt they could represent their unique situation better as its own GSA. Phillimore commented this is a current trend in Kern County. This move by KWB will increase the number of GSPs in the subbasin to eight. But, and this is important, there is a plan in place for increased coordination between all the GSAs to prepare an acceptable GSP before the April hearing before the State Board. The KWB board agreed.
There was an item to review an exchange between KWB and San Luis Water District. SLWD, them cats are some wheeler and dealers when it comes to water trades. Brown reported that is no longer a concern.
Superintendent Nick Torres said send him 750,000 a/f and he’ll put it in the ground by the end of the season. Maybe he meant a sustained 750 cfs. He said all the basins are taking water. There have been washouts but the crew has been able to make repairs on the fly. He showed photos of a very full Kern River Intertie. There was also a photo of a bobcat mother and kitten walking down a dirt road. It looked like the dread yellow star thistle was along the side but it was what I can fake mustard and not that noxious, invasive weed. Parker said whenever they find yellow start thistle they dig it out and double bag it.
There are about 600 head of cattle munching down on the grass growing on the water bank at $.20 per day per head. This is a little lower than the usual going price but grazing the bank isn’t like other typical grazing arrangements. The cattlemen have to move the herds on demand and herds can be removed at a moment’s notice according to the needs of the bank. Someone said the cowboy is trying to rebuild his herd, he’s like an almond grower who had loses during the drought.
Parker reported on facility replacement and new construction. The expected total will be $12.7 million before it’s all over. They only have to raise $7.4 million to make it come true. Director Jason Gianquinto pointed out they need to budget for expected maintenance and not wait until its needed due to failure.
Parker said the KGA GSA has had five or more GSAs withdraw to present their own GSPs. He’s working with a GEI engineer and Dan Bartell from Rosedale Rio Bravo WSD on domestic well mitigation. Parker said he wants the Kern Subbasin Coordination Committee meetings to be online and open. He said Dan Waterhouse from Semitropic is the Chair of the KGA and he’s on board with open meetings as well.
Joe Butkiewicz reported on a power study to find ways to cut electricity costs. He said there are two or three other bids on how to do this. He said utilities are burying as much of their new and old lines as possible so they don’t get sued into a fine ashy powder like PG&E. Butkiewicz said he’s talking with other districts about cost sharing. He said Arvin Edison WSD is interested but their usage time is the same as the bank mostly.
Parker reported there have been a good deal of tours of the bank but with the temperatures raising he thinks it will slow down. Members of the California Water Commission have been interested. Public Relations specialist Justin Salters reported there is more interest from Sacramento to follow. The meeting then went into closed session at 4:00pm on the nose.
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*An earlier version of this report misstated the Kern Water Bank was going to leave the Kern Groundwater Authority GSA. My apologies for the error and my thanks for the help catching it.
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, Sheridan Nicholas-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
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.