CITY OF NAVY DECLARES WAR On IWV Water District, Mayor Calls For Unity and Growth, Demands District Borrow $25 Million In Order To Buy Water From Somewhere Else Or It’s Armageddon!
News and Views from the Indian Wells Valley and the Eastern Sierra in California
Roadrunner395’s 1st Axiom: “That which is unsustainable can’t be fixed by something else that is unsustainable.“
September 4, 2021
It was an exciting night at the
City Navy Council meeting held Wednesday, September 1, 2021. The meeting lasted until midnight and was filled with hot topics including Covid, Water Wars and finally, the City’s progression into a state of terminal blight and widespread trash. This post will address the water issue but there’s more to come on Covid and Trash.
Perhaps 20 or 30 residents attended in person while only 30 to 45 watched on the City’s Youtube channel. If there’s any question why people in the Indian Wells Valley aren’t informed or don’t care about critical issues in the valley, it will become apparent by watching the video of the council meeting below. The war begins at agenda item 12 when most people had gone home.
City of Navy Declares War!
On Wednesday night, The U.S. Navy and City of Ridgecrest declared open war on the Indian Wells Valley Water District and it’s customers, threatening “Armegeddon” if the IWVWD continues it’s pursuit of justice via legal action called “Comprehensive Adjudication”. The case is likely to take many months or perhaps years. In addition, Searles Valley Minerals has apparently filed a separate Comprehensive Adjudication lawsuit and will likely challenge Navy’s assertion of Federal Reserve Water Rights (FRWR).
What is Armegeddon?
Mayor Eric Bruen describes the IWVWD’s legal action as “Armegeddon”. The Council fears that any potential growth and any construction of more houses and fast food restaurants in the City will come to a screeching halt if the water district doesn’t back down. This is the only thing he’s been right about since being
endorsed appointed by Congressman Kevin MCarthy.
If the IWVWD requests an injunction, the implementation of the IWVGA’s Replenishment Fee will be put on hold. The IWVGA won’t be able to continue collecting the fee or buy any water to replenish the basin. Ridgecrest won’t be able to grow (and that’s a good thing). Residents in the valley might be forced to cut back their water usage by 75%!
These cases have broad and profound implications for every military reservation on BLM land withdrawn from public use. Unless the Navy withdraws it’s assertion of FRWR, It’s highly likely this issue will arrive at a Federal Court and will further complicate and delay the implementation of the IWVGA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).
For more information, see the Letter below which has been sent to the Bureau of Land Managment. (Hint: The BLM is on your side, not Navy’s).
The Navy is claiming rights to 6,750 acre feet of water when they only pump 1,500 acre feet. Why? Because that’s how much they’ve used in the past and they don’t want to pay to recharge the basin. ALL the water the Navy has used “from the beginning of time” was free and the water they currently use is free and they want everyone else to pay for it. Reminder: It’s your water, not theirs.
In effect, water district customers are now being charged a “Replenishment Fee” for water used by Navy in the past in order to bring the basin back to a level considered to be acceptable by the Navy, and you’re being asked to pay for all that water by borrowing $25,000,000 to do so. Searles Valley Minerals is refusing to pay their “share” of the fee in the amount of $27,800,000! Should SVM go out of business, guess who pays for their portion?
To add insult to injury, the Navy wants to reserve the “Sustainable Yield” of the basin for itself. Remember, it’s not their water rights they’re confiscating, it’s yours, and they want you to borrow money in order to pay for water they’ve already consumed. See how “recharging the basin” works?
Who’s To Blame For This Mess?
For some readers that may not know local politics, Ridgecrest is a “Company Town” and very isolationist. In the “Secret City”, the only thing that matters to the City of Ridgecrest is serving the Navy-DOD’s highly paid civilian employees while padding it’s budget using the funds already collected for a new Wastewater Treatment Facility. The IWVWD has tried to work with the City of Navy, to no avail. Negotiations are at a standstill and the City has instructed Councilmember Blades to attend the next water district in order to
plead the City’s case issue terms of surrender.
The City is drooling at the opportunity to “control” 2,000 acre feet of treated wastewater in order to sell it to the Groundwater Authority at $2,130 per acre foot, or $4,260,000 per year in fresh income for the City. Isn’t that sweet? Now you know why Mr. Strand covets the WWTF and why he has kept negotiations with the Navy a secret for many years. These people aren’t stupid. Remember, IWVWD customers will have to pay the
repenishment fee tax on water that’s already been consumed by the Navy!
The meeting included accusations by Councilmember Scott Hayman that the Water District failed to buy water rights and land from the pistachio farmers when they had the chance. We won’t delve into the pistachio debate but will make clear in a later post why pistachios were planted in the valley in the first place and lay the blame squarely where it lies:
Suffice it to say, the idea that you should be able plant thousands of acres of water consuming pistachios in the high Mojave Desert, one of the most brutal deserts on the planet, is ludicrous.
As a result of decades of mismanagement and parochialism, the Indian Wells Valley water basin has been declared to be in “Severe Overdraft” by the State, and IWVWD property owners will be required to pay to import water. If there is any blame for this mess it lies at the feet of the U.S. Navy, Mick Gleason, Lorelei Oviatt, Peggy Breeden and, wait for it:
Why not give him a call and let him know how you feel instead of bothering the nice folks at the Indian Wells Valley Water District.
*We are renaming the City of Ridgecrest to the City of Navy for obvious reasons. If there is one “water pumper” that’s responsible for depleting the Indian Wells Valley’s water basin it’s the U.S. Navy.
(Note to Mayor Bruen, what did we tell you about marking down DVFCU’s loan book? As you admitted at the meeting, you are ignorant regarding water issues and Peggy is the “expert” dating back in time to 1983. Keep investing in those water stocks though.)
For background, see Ridgecrest’s New Mayor Eric Bruen Throws Temper Tantrum at First Council Meeting. “Controlling the dialog” indeed.
What about the IWVGA Fees? IWVGA FEES – The Very Definition of FRAUD in an Illustrated Guide For IWV Water District Customers and Residents of the City of Ridgecrest. It’s Your Money or Your Sh*t-etc. Hint: (It’s Both! + WTF?)+(Caution x Language)=Hilarity Ensues (roadrunner395.com)
How critical is it to protect the mission at China Lake? (Editiorial by Pat Farris, Publisher of the News Review)
IWVWD’s Explantion of what it means to all of us:
City Attorney writes lawyerly letter to IWVWD firing the first shot:
Lawyerly letter torn in two by Mike Neel at the meeting (See Video Below)
To the Editor: Sept. 1 a most contentious council meeting (By Mike Neel, Letters to Editor, The News Review)
Response to the City Attorney’s Letter by IWVWD General Manager Don Zdeba:
IWVWD managers and supervisors respond to City legal counsel (The News Review)
Mojave Pistachios Public Letter May 11, 2021
Save Searles Valley Minerals
If you’d like to take a deep dive into the issue of Federal Reserve Water Right, BLM Land reservations and how Congressman McCarthy and former Kern County Supervisor Mick Gleason started the ball rolling, read the letter we sent to the Bureau of Land Management asking for their opinion.
See Item 6 in Capt. Dale’s letter dated Feb. 20 below. This is the buried lede for the entire saga relating to water rights and allocations by the IWVGA and it is the cause of the Great Indian Wells Valley Water War of 2021. Armegeddon is finally upon The City of Navy-Ridgecrest, and that’s a very good thing for property owners in the IWV.
Letter to Bureau of Land Management:
The Groundwater Authority was created as a result of California’s passage of the State Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014.
The U.S. Navy is currently holding 1.1 million acres of BLM public land Status Withdrawn. Item 6 in the attached letter contains the Navy’s assertion that they have Federal Reserve Water Rights, which is not an established Federal law but a protocol based on case law unrelated to Military reservations on BLM land. (Nellis was related to land owned by Nellis purchased from the City of Las Vegas).
In 2013, the Navy tried unsuccessfully to change the Status of the land to a permanent withdrawal with the sponsorship of Congressman Kevin McCarthy and former NAWSCL Commanding Officer Mick Gleason, USN ret. (See references below).
Mr. Gleason was the County Supervisor representing Kern County when the Navy attempted to make the withdrawal permanent in 2013 and became chairman of the IWVGA Board of Directors at the time the IWVGA was created in 2014. Supervisor Gleason remained Chairman of the IWVGA Board of Directors from 2014 through 2020 and worked tirelessly to develop the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) that was approved by the Board in 2020: IWV groundwater plan approved – News – Ridgecrest Daily Independent – Ridgecrest, CA – Ridgecrest, CA (ridgecrestca.com)
The IWVGA was responsible for establishing the water allocations for all users of water in the basin and accepted the Navy’s assertion of FRWR without debate or objection.
In effect, the Navy is reserving in excess of 5,000 acre feet of water for itself (while using only 1500 acre feet) and shifting the entire burden of Basin Replenishment Fees to the water district and Searles Valley Minerals.
This burden extends to most if not all 5,000 civilian DOD employees who live off-base and who are also customers of IWVWD or property owners with wells. The Navy base itself has only a small contingent of active duty military under the command of NAVAIR in the Navy’s Southwest Region.
Please see the announcement sent by Mr. Don Zbeda and the IWVWD attempting to explain the Basin Replenishment Fee to their customers: “Impact of IWVGA Fees on District Customers” | Indian Wells Valley Water District (iwvwd.com)
Cut from the announcement by IWVWD to customers:
“This fee, as drafted, applies only to customers of the District and to Searles Valley Minerals. According to the report, these two non-de minimis pumpers are pumping in excess of the established average annual recharge of 7,650 acre-feet and are therefore required to acquire imported water supplies of 5,000 acre-feet to fully meet their needs.”
Navy’s strategy results in an added direct cost to customers of IWVWD for 2112 acre feet per year for an estimated cost of $52,800,000 over a five year period.
If Searles Valley Minerals and their 600 employees are put out of out of business, the entire cost of Basin Recharge will be shifted to IWVWD property owners.
Attorney’s representing Searles Valley Minerals have publicly stated that Navy’s assertion of FRWR “is laughable and a question of law at best”.
I am requesting a BLM review of Federal Reserve Water Rights to determine if the BLM agrees with Navy’s assertion that they have Federal Reserve Water Rights.
I am also in the process of proposing a solution to the Navy that would allow them to pump water to the basin from the reserved land that is outside the current study area that was used to formulate the GSP. This would likely result in the discovery of a substantial amount of underground water in areas of the both in and around the basin on BLM land that is currently withdrawn.
Time is of the essence as the direct and consequential damages to all parties continue to accrue. The current legal impasse negatively impacts the Navy’s mission at China Lake as well as the viability of the community that supports them.
cc: Indian Wells Valley Water District, Board of Directors
References: In 2014 BLM opposes making NAWSCL withdrawal permanent:
The Administration supports the continued use of the NAWS China Lake lands under withdrawal as identified in H.R. 4458 by the Department of Defense (DOD), and as identified in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 14, P.L. 113-66. However, the Administration cannot support H.R. 4458 as written, as it would indefinitely extend the China Lake withdrawal without the very important periodic review by the DOD and DOI that is a part of the legislative withdrawal process. The Administration believes that this periodic review by the two Departments, as well as the Congress and the public, is vital to promoting high-quality stewardship and management of the public lands.