March 20, 2015
On the menu. Your water.
Baja Sustainable Water Plan
Offers Delusion For Everyone
The most recent of the Baja Areawide Sustainability Plan meetings
was held Monday night, March 16, 2015, at the Assembly of God Church in Newberry Springs.
For the first time visitors attending a water meeting, the
meeting included an overview of earlier presented material. Of prime interest to
all was the presentation of the final direction that the Baja Areawide Sustainability
Plan was centering on.
Holly Shiralipour, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service,
an entity of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Lance Eckhart, Principal Hydrogeologist
with the Mojave Water Agency, presented the basics behind the final version of the Plan
that is expected to be approved by the Watermaster for submission to Riverside Superior
Court Judge Gloria Connor Trask. The Watermaster adoption of the Plan is set for the
March 25, 2015 Watermaster's
agenda (No. 9).
The presentation centered around the 'Tier 1' aspects of the Plan
which will be the portion of the Plan that initial emphasis will be placed on.
Since the January 5, 2015 public meeting where minimal producers packed the Newberry
Springs Family Center (formally the Senior Center), the plan has expanded to include some
of the concerns of the minimal producers, those pumping under 10-acre feet of water per
year. Minimal producers represent the vast majority of the valley's residents
who currently operate approximately 1,200 wells.
Incentives for minimal producers.
The biggest carrot being pitched to the minimal producers in
soliciting their support of the plan is a USDA program that offers easy to qualify,
for 30 years, to residents who have had their wells go dry due to
farmers overdrafting the groundwater. While this may be a helpful program for some
who will have to dig new wells, it is not a grant. The domestic well
assistance program doesn't help residents on a limited income who don't have the
funds to make the additional monthly payments.
Likewise, other programs for minimal producers, like the
Cash for Grass, won't have much impact in Newberry Springs.
The big money in the water Plan is still targeting the greedy
heavy pumpers. Those who took advantage of corrupt governmental giveaway policies to
rape the Mojave Valley's natural groundwater resources that took nature thousands of years to
develop. Some of that background is attached below in a communication from CEQA-NOW
to Valerie Wiegenstein, manager of the Mojave Basin Area Watermaster.
Holly Shiralipour, Lance Eckhart, and those behind them, have
put together a Plan of monumental data; and although they have reached out to the community's
residents for input that they have genuinely included into the Plan, the Plan appears very weak
with a timetable of too many years of continuing overdraft. The Plan further fails
to address any long-term restoration plan for the aquifer.
In short, the Plan fails to address the true problem.
The necessity to stop the industrial farming of alfalfa and other high water intensive
crops in the arid Mojave Valley desert.
The Plan is being centered upon an idealism of collaborative
cooperation of all parties working together for the common good. If this was ever
realistic, the heavy pumpers would have years ago stopped overdrafting the groundwater
from beneath their neighbors' homes. But they haven't. Although
a couple farmers are converting some acreage to less intensive water crops, the majority
of farmers plan to operate business as usual, with a few increasing their output.
Malfeasance in the federal government.
Shiralipour, a principal leader of the Plan's development,
has done a fine job for her employer. But that is the US government that
originally mostly gave away the now alfalfa land to the farmers. Since then,
the USDA has been heavily subsidizing the heavy pumpers with highly favorable loans
and grants to farm and purchase equipment, such as the pivots that have vastly increased
the rapid depletion of the groundwater. The USDA is a major coconspirator with the
heavy pumpers. Shiralipour's employer is about supporting agriculture and that is
reflected in the emphasis of the money flow in the Plan.
The Plan's framework insults taxpayers and assaults
their pocketbooks with recommended grandeur buyouts of the heavy pumpers' (government given) water
rights of the PUBLIC's groundwater. Yes, even more taxpayer giveaway money is recommended
in the Plan to stop the farming and fallow the fields. As threatened in a letter
dated February 25, 2015 by farmer Glen Van Dam to the Mojave Watermaster and MWA Board
of Directors, "It is likely that local farmers will play a role in realizing significant
components of the Renewable Plan" (Desert Renewal Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP)).
In short, give the farmers water or they'll turn the Mojave Valley into a solar farm.
Tough action necessary.
The Newberry Springs Community Alliance finds that the Plan
has attempted to include something for everyone to like, to get behind, and support.
Yet, that is not enough. One can eventually finish a footrace by having a leg to hop on...
to the finish line. However, it requires two strong legs and a strong determination
to win the race. The Plan is a leg short; and lacks the determination necessary to adequately
curtail the heavy pumpers that the USDA has invested in.
The USDA's conflict of interest lies in its job to keep
the farmers operational. That is the purpose of its existance. It's
not about the minimal producers. A long, stretched-out timetable is desired
by the USDA to maintain the financial viability of the heavy pumpers. Meanwhile,
it is the minimal producers' 1,200 wells (mostly residential) that are being damaged.
The state is calling for everyone within California to
their water usage by
not 5% as the Watermaster's staff has decided to recommend; despite Alternative 'A' in the
Plan suggesting 20%. Since the 5-year rampdown plan of 2.5% annually has recently
concluded in such a dismal failure, a 20% additional rampdown is now strongly warranted
as a meaningful and necessary adjustment.
Additionally, the Newberry Springs Community Alliance
is calling for the County of San Bernardino to simply correct the whole matter by enacting
an EMERGENCY ordinance to cease the desert farming of all high water intensive crops. The
continued unsustainable pumping by farmers is causing an unacceptable health hazard by
not only depleting the aquifer that residents must depend upon for survival, but the farmers are
also destroying the groundwater's ability to ever recover as severe overpumping compacts
the underground soil and prevents the ground from ever having its former water capacity.
The Newberry Springs Community Alliance is also involved with other
entities in addressing the strategic assessment of Newberry's farmland becoming
toxic cesspools of urban industrial sewage waste.
As weak as the proposed Plan is, it is something
that should be supported; but only as a starting point.
Among those attending the public meeting was Beverly Lowry and
Jim Ventura, Board members of the Mojave Water Agency and members of the Watermaster Board;
Ron Frame, local field representative for county Supervisor Robert Lovingood; and Chuck
Bell, President of the Mojave Desert Resource Conservation District.
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