All seats and tables were filled with attendees at the Baja Areawide
Sustainability Plan meeting on water at the Newberry Springs Family Center on
Wednesday, September 17, 2014.
The event was hosted by the Mojave Desert Resource Conservation District
which had governmental guest speakers that explained the compilation of data used in the
still developing district's plan for water conservation. The presentations centered upon
agriculture as it represents the largest ground water pumpers responsible
for the unsustainable pumping in the Mojave Valley basin.
Based upon public input from four previous public meetings, research, and
consultants, three tiers of alternative conservation methods were introduced at the meeting as
possibilities for implementation; and discussion was given how each could be implemented.
High on the 'Tier 1: Implement Soon' list is a water rights buyout proposal.
This raised a question if this proposal could be the driving force for a number of fallow fields
in Newberry Springs suddenly being placed back into production. The buyout of water
rights will logically first go to the active pumping fields; and with limited purchase funds
being initially available, are the reestablishment of fields now chasing the buyout money.
Is the buyout scheme a driving force for greater pumping?
To discourage this growing trend, should any field reesablished after 2013
be placed at the end of the buyout list? Such would appear reasonable to
deter increased pumping.
Key court Judgment is not being followed.
Under the court ordered adjudication of pumping rights, the matter
appeared to be well understood by the Superior Court under Judge Erik Michael Kaiser
who took the time to visit Newberry Springs and speak with the community. After
Judge Kaiser's retirement, the adjudication is now being supervised by Judge Gloria
Connor Trask. Each year after submission of documents from the Mojave Water
Agency (MWA) and other interested parties to her, she holds an annual court session
to rule on rampdown adjustments.
At this time, the MWA, Fish & Game, and others annually appear before her.
The farmers usually have people in attendance. Coming dressed like pauperized Dust Bowl
dirt farmers, the farmers annually seek relief from pumping rampdowns.
When the judge does order a decrease in pumping, it is usually 2.5-percent.
Under Judge Kaiser, the first four rampdowns were at 5-percent. Since, the rampdowns have
been at 2.5, with the current rampdown level now at 55-percent. This hasn't been sufficient
to stop a continuing decline in the water table. What won't be helping is the reactivation
of unjudicated fallow fields.
The fault of a working solution appears to lay at the door of Judge Trask.
She has failed to enforce the ruling under a Judgment After Trial by Judge Kaiser filed on
January 10, 1996.
In that ruling, under EXHIBIT H, rampdowns are to be based upon two
riparian habitat monitoring wells located in the Harvard/Eastern Baja Surface Water Habitat
Zone identified as well numbers H3-1 and H3-2. Included under the judgement,
2. Protection Pursuant to Physical Solution
"The following aspects of the Physical Solution must be implemented to seek to
achieve the water table standards set forth in Table H-2 which were proposed by DFG as being
necessary to maintain and converse the riparian resources in the areas shown on Figure H-1:
a. Pursuant to Paragraph 24(o) of the Judgment, the Watermaster in recommending an
adjustment in Free Production Allowance, shall compare the Free Production Allowance with the
estimated Production Safe Yield. In the event the Free Production Allowance exceeds the
estimated Production Safe Yield by five percent or more, Watermaster shall recommend a reduction
of the Free Production Allowance equal to a full five percent of the aggregate Subarea Base
Although the above is only a portion of Exhibit H, the gist of the ruling
is that each year that there is a deficiency of 5-percent or more, a mandatory five-percent
additional rampdown "shall" be recommended by the Watermaster to the court. This tough-love
by Judge Kaiser appears to be the only serious measure to reverse the continuing ground water
depletion that continues today.
Unfortunately, the MWA has not followed the Judgment, be it for politics
or other measures required in EXHIBIT H. The current court appears to be
avoiding EXHIBIT H, perhaps trying to find an equitable solution for the farmers.
Pussyfooting around the problem doesn't solve it. There is no equitable
solution for the farmers. By their unsustainable pumping, the farmers have created the
Public opinion has turned against the farmers.
Previous support for the farmers' water plight has taken a severe nosedrive.
Despite the wealth created by Newberry Springs farming, the farmers have given little back
to the community; except to deplete the ground water that has cost some residents tens of
thousands of dollars to dig deeper wells.
To demonstrate a further lack of their concern for Newberry Springs,
some farmers are now contaminating their fields with toxins contained in their fertilizer
material, urban sewage sludge from Nursery Products in Hinkley, California. Toxins
that are now leaching into the groundwater. Nothing is more important for survival
in the desert than water, and the farmers are depleting and contaminating it.