Residents to meet with local water plan developers.
Residents turn proactive against alfalfa farming.
On September 16, 2014 Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed historic
legislation to strengthen local management and monitoring of groundwater basins most critical
to the state's water needs. The three bills, SB 1168 (Pavley), SB 1319 (Pavley), and AB 1739
(Dickinson) together makeup the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Community Alliance proposes additional remedies.
Anti-alfalfa residents contemplate filing an Amicus curiæ brief with the court.
January 1, 2015
The dozen major alfalfa center-pivot farmers in the Mojave Valley
are becoming less popular as they continue to negatively impact other
farmers who grow less water-intensive crops. They are also
making water pumping a critical and sensitive issue for the lake owners,
and the thousands of residents who depend upon the groundwater.
So few are negatively impacting so many.
The alfalfa farmers are self-righteously claiming that
they are within their right to pump 'their' water. Unfortunately, they
are seriously depleting the groundwater of residential (minimum producer)
properties whose homeowners, under the law, hold a stronger residential
use right to the water under their land.
The problem appears to be the state sanctioned water
rights, that the farmers claim are historically theirs. The rights
are highly inequitable. Thereby, the inequitable pumping of large
quantities of water for a good cause, such as agriculture, may violate the federal
constitution as such heavy pumping depletes the water table under innocent
others who have a historical higher residential priority right to the
water under their property.
The alfalfa farmers year-round unsustainable water
pumping for their center-pivots, and the seizing of the groundwater of others
without compensation, is a basic violation of personal property rights
that probably should be addressed through a class action in federal court.
A court may rule that exercising one's state license to pump must be
reasonable and that unsustainable pumping that seriously injures the
rights of other citizens is not reasonable.
Like a California driver's license that allows one
to drive up to 70 MPH on occasions, one shouldn't always take the maximum,
as care must be given not to injure others. If you injure others,
you're liable for the damages. Pumping water massively in an arid desert
is common-sense reckless and a verdict should be supported with the award
of high punitive damages.
Residential water use holds top priority.
Minimal producers (residents - pumping under 10
acre-feet) who use their water for residential use hold overlying
priority rights that the California Supreme Court has reiterated may
not be ignored when a trial court apportions a basin's groundwater. Judge
Trask in failing to uphold the Stipulation Agreement that mandates a 5% minimal
rampdown per year under 'Table H-2' of the Stipulated Agreement has for five years
failed in her responsibility under law to protect the interests of the vast majority
of residents in the Baja Subarea.
While Judge Trask has taken a soft approach to cuddle and minimize
the financial impact upon the alfalfa farmers, the water tables in the Mojave Valley
have continued to drop with the draconian financial impact being placed upon the
residential pumpers, a few of which may face the devastation of having to abandon
their homes due to the lack of financial means to drill new wells.
A new residential well that chases the ever declining water table
is now costing about $30,000. Far more than many on a fixed income can afford.
The power costs of pumping water from deeper depths, the increased maintainance
costs of replacing deep underground water pumps that have to work harder, and the
degradation of the quality of deeper water, are residential damages resulting
primarily from alfalfa pivot farming.
The court and Watermaster have previously been listening to a
dozen major alfalfa farmers whine of lesser profits. It is now time that they listen to
the approximate 4,700 residents who live in the Mojave Valley and depend upon
the basin's water to live. Over 2,200 live in Newberry Springs.
Homeowners deserve restitution for damages.
In short, while the state's new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
may slowly cause a slowing in groundwater extraction, a federal class action
relief may be far quicker in remedying the overdraft and awarding restitution for
the harm that alfalfa farmers have done to residential and nonresidential parcels
within the Mojave Valley.
When land parcels depend upon groundwater, the land is near
worthless without the water. Alfalfa farmers are devaluating the value of the
land of others by removing the water without care or consideration of the damages.
Despite court ordered rampdowns on the
Stipulated farmers, water table is now continuing to drop 1.5 to 2 feet per year.
The Baja Areawide Sustainability Plan offers residential pumpers lip-service.
Baja Areawide Sustainability Plan
("Plan"), as it currently stands, is a kiss-up to alfalfa agriculture. It is
a proposed 10-year (2015-2025) free pass to heavy pumping alfalfa farmers
that is flawed and won't work. With alfalfa
farmers purchasing dormant water rights, and with new and fallow alfalfa fields being
activated, unsustainable water pumping will continue despite the proposed Plan.
The drafted Plan on page 8 states:
"As a whole, the community
has a desire to find solutions to the water resource and related problems that are
equitable and have minimal impact on any given constituency or group of stakeholders."
The people in the Mojave Valley know that they're not living in fairyland;
and that the above wishy-washiness of not hurting anyone's feelings, is why the water
table keeps dropping. The residents are smart enough to know where the biggest cause
of their problem lies. That is with center-pivot farmed alfalfa. The sacred cow
has to be removed from its pedistal. It is only a few farmers that are devasting the
entire valley's water supply for their own personal greed.
To add insult to the massive residential injuries of unsustainable alfalfa
farming, the draft Plan recommends that some water rights of alfalfa farmers be purchased with tax
dollars and the water rights be retired. Here we have a situation where greedy farmers
established inappropriate alfalfa fields, that require a tremendous amount of water, in an
arid desert of only 4-inches of average annual rainfall, and they have knowingly and maliciously
damaged the residential groundwater. Now the public under the Plan is expected to pay the
farmers millions of extortion dollars to stop their pillaging!? This assinine plan
won't likely float well politically once properly publicized through the media. If such
millions of dollars can be acquired for buy-outs, it should go into purchasing water flowing
down the MWA's Mojave pipeline to recharge the Mojave basin.
If anything, the alfalfa farmers should be held liable themselves for
the recovery costs of acquiring water through the MWA pipeline to replenish the aquifers;
as well as cover the costs of removing the thousands of tons of contaminating toxic urban-sewage
waste sludge that they have dumped upon our water table. This is toxic waste
so hazardous that it is illegal to dump into rivers or oceans.
The residential pumpers have been screwed enough!
The special interest cuddling of the alfalfa farmers needs to
cease. The Baja Subarea needs to get into the lead of the California
new groundwater sustainability plan, and not the tail end.
The drafted Baja Areawide Sustainability Plan highlights that
Newberry Springs is a farming community and that the citizens desire to maintain that
lifestyle. Well, that is a self-serving promotional myth perpetuated by the
vocal center-pivot farmers.
Pistachio farming is in harmony with the community.
Koi farming is in harmony. Other crops that also require little water
also fit well. But industrialized pivot farming of alfalfa that pumps
out crop after crop, month after month, year after year, sucking dry the
community's water supply is a parasite.
Most Newberry Springs residents are pro-rural living;
not necessarily pro-farming. Many are pro-ranching, with horses and
livestock. We can live better without the water overdrafting, the
contamination of the soil, and the aroma and illnesses caused by the pathogens
from freshly spread urban toxic sewer waste that go airborne for miles in the wind
and permeate our homes. Yes, Newberry Springs can survive and live better
without pivot alfalfa farming.
The retirement of water rights may sound good; but it will do little
good. The alfalfa farmers have purchased and hold a huge surplus of Base Annual Yield
rights. Currently, water rights are inexpensive, some selling in the neighborhood of
$25 per acre foot. Some have sold for as little as $5 because water can not be
transferred outside the water basin. The farmers would be delighted to sell their
unused surplus for the Plan's suggested windfall of $250-$450 per acre foot.
They'll keep what they need and continue to pump as usual. The farmers are
outmaneuvering the Plan's Project Team as they have previously snookered the court.
We know that when we focus the water depletion upon the
alfalfa farmers (agriculture accounts for about 75% of the water pumped),
some alfalfa farmers deflect the overdraft problem upon the lake owners.
Lake owners only pump 6.8%, and a portion of that is for residential use by
some of the 300 that live adjacent a lake. So proportionately, the
lake pumping is pale in comparison to the water consumed by agriculture;
and the heavy pumpers in agriculture are the guzzling alfalfa farmers.
The figures above are taken from the illustration (right)
from page 36 of Volume 1: Report • Baja Areawide Sustainability Plan
(Draft - December 2014).
The lake owners are now suffering from an unfair rampdown burden.
Lake owners cannot cutback on evaporation; but alfalfa farmers can simply switch crops,
or cut back on the number of crop cycles per year.
Lake owners represent approximately $60-million in property
values, a major highlight and tax base in Newberry Springs. Penalizing the
lake owners with further rampdowns in a community where many have residential ponds,
is not meaningful. The burden is becoming destructive. Lake owners must
purchase additional water rights; so regardless, the groundwater pumping
remains consistant. Therefore, many minimal producers are supportive of a
cessation of further rampdowns upon the lake owners to maintain the viability
of these residential properties within the community.
The court adjudicating the Stipulation has made it very clear that
it wants to make its decisions based upon scientific data presented to it. By
simply looking at the above pie chart, the court will recognize an error in the premise
constituting the basis of the report. If not corrected in the final version,
the court may not favor the Plan and the Mojave Water Agency may have some
explaining to do. The fundamental error is first revealed on page 5 of the
released draft Plan.
The Mojave Water Agency
The Mojave Valley's water basin has been served for thousands of years
by the Mojave River. With the growth of development upstream of Newberry Springs,
the Mojave Water Agency, who is responsible for controlling the distribution of the river's
water, has been diverting the Mojave River's historical flow to serve upstream development.
Some of the diverted water is water that the Mojave Valley has a historical right to.
Cities like Victorville, Hesperia, Adelanto, and the town of
Apple Valley may aggressively push for new development for the tax revenues; but their
development must be sustainable. They need another water source than our historical
water. It is time that the MWA restores the past water losses to the Mojave Valley
to restore the Baja basin.
Community Alliance's Proposals
A. The Community Alliance is recommending that the Mojave Water Agency's
Watermaster recommend to the Superior Court (in upholding the Stipulation AND the new
state Sustainable Groundwater Management Act), and recommend to the county Board of
Supervisors, a ban on alfalfa (and all other water-intensive crops) being grown anywhere
within the Baja Subarea. An unnatural, water-intensive crop such as alfalfa,
simply has no business being grown in the arid Mojave Valley. Banning all alfalfa
would address the new proliferating alfalfa fields that are not under the Stipulation
and would establish a precedent of uniformally addressing water-guzzling crops that
are at the heart of the water overdraft problem. Farmers in the Mojave Valley's
arid desert need to switch to sustainable low water crops. Consideration may be
given to an Emergency Declaration.
B. The Community Alliance is recommending a 5-percent
increase in the rampdown (with a rampdown freeze for the lake owners).
The 5-percent is the minimum now considered by the court; and it is the minimum required
by the Stipulation contract. The court's earlier acceptance of 2.5-percent over the
last 5-year period has been a dismal failure to the court. Until the low volume
Stipulators and minimal producers acquire a ban on the farming of water-intensive crops
in the Mojave Valley, the rampdowns will continue. Remove unsustainable farming and
there will be no need for rampdowns.
C. The Community Alliance further recommends that the Watermaster and the
court move not only towards sustainability of the Baja basin, but also volume recovery.
Time for Tough Love
Despite many years of Stipulation Agreement measures being ordered by the
Superior Court, the court continues to be a failure in stopping the water overdrafting.
The court and the Watermaster will soon be looking inept if the state has
to step in and do their job under the new Substainable Groundwater Management Act.
Their time is quickly running out to demonstrate compliance and they need to
display some Tough Love.
Judge Gloria Trask is impatient with the lack of
results with the Baja Basin, according to a report given by attorney
to the Mojave Water Agency's
on June 26, 2014. This report was given shortly after the annual
June hearing on the Stipulation before the court.
The report offers an exceptional insight to the Superior
Court's tough direction expected for 2015 on the Baja groundwater management.
The report is contained in this attached 8½ minute audio.
The good-old-days of the Mojave Water Agency doing things
appears to be over, according to this report on Judge Trask.
The Baja Areawide Sustainability Plan is expected
to be paraded by the Mojave Water Agency as a major document at next June's
The only real solution, is obvious, a ban on alfalfa and other water
intensive crops being farmed. Alfalfa farmers could still farm other crops.
The Baja Areawide Sustainability Plan, a water plan that will
be placed before the Mojave Water Agency's Watermaster for approval before submission
to the Superior Court, is currently weak in its resolution to seriously address the
overdraft. It concentrates on the needs of alfalfa production; and it totally
ignores the public's need of water quality. The alfalfa heavy pumpers have
been successful in falsely lobbying their special interests, claiming them to be the
consensus of the community.
In fact, the very presumptuous Plan justifies itself by claiming
that the community's minimal pumpers have had the opportunity to be heard. The Plan
fails to address the Project Team's failure to outreach and educated the community of what
the ramifications of the Plan are and how negatively it can impact them. Consequently,
a review of many of the comments submitted in designing the Plan are often supported by only two
to four residents. Not representative of the Newberry Springs community of over 2,200;
or the valley's 4,700 residents.
It was not until the draft plan was released that the minimal producers
could understand how the Project Team chose to use the data provided them. Only after
the draft Plan was released, did the Project Team decide to meet with the lake owners and
the minimal producers. These two entities ARE the community, not the dozen major alfalfa
Each year, the Superior Court hears and considers adjustments regarding
the Stipulation Agreement. As the Stipulation deals with the contracted stipulators,
the minimal producers are not a party and their voices have not been properly included;
however, by scope the residential producers are the most impacted. It is now time
that their voice be projected. A five-year special agreement that capped the annual
rampdowns to 2½% is expiring and it is now time to recognize the Watermaster's
and the court's failures, and to assist them organize a true working solution.
With the minimal producers' complaint that the Plan's Project Team hasn't
met, listened to, nor adequately included the concerns of the minimal producers, the Project
Team has decided to meet exclusively with the residential minimal pumpers in a private meeting on:
Note: This is a PRIVATE focus group meeting for minimalproducersonly. A focus group meeting has been previously held with the farmers.
This meeting is scheduled to last 2-hours. For this meeting, a minimal producer is
defined as someone who is not a Stipulator, not a lake owner, and who does not have an
interest in any well that pumps over ten acre feet per year. Most all residents
fall within this category.
The meeting is being hosted by the Newberry Springs Chamber of Commerce,
the Newberry Springs-Harvard Real Property Owners Association, CEQA-NOW, and the
Community Alliance. The agenda, in part, may cover the following points of concern.
A few points, some have stated are illegal; however, under the Health & Safety of the entire
community, they may be declared feasible.
Baja Areawide Sustainability Plan
Points of Concern
#1. Notice: Minimal producers are not supportive of the current alfalfa bias Plan; except for soil erosion remedies.
#2. Depletion of the aquifer MUST STOP; Emergency Declaration warranted;
#3. Baja Subarea ban on farming alfalfa and all large scale water-intensive crops;
#4. Demand upon the MWA for the Mojave Valley's historical Mojave River water flow;
#5. Increase in rampdown (minimum compliance with mandatory 'Exhibit H' - Except for #9 below);
#6. No on the purchase of farming water rights for water retirement (Alternative #1);
#7. Freeze sale and transfer of water rights for water-intensive crop farming;
#8. Freeze on the dumping of toxic urban sewage sludge upon the groundwater topsoil;
#9. Freeze on further lake owner rampdowns;
#10. Plan fails to analyze and include the impact of deteriorating water quality;
#11. No on alternative #15 - 'Increase Irrigation Efficiency' - which amounts to a farmers' gov't paid windfall;
#12. Restoration of the aquifers (not just stabilization);
#13. Acquisition of grants to fund the MWA's Newberry pipeline's purpose (nonbanking water deposits);
#14. Well drilling grants for new wells for impacted minimal producers (easy qualify);
#15. Effective monitoring and enforcement of all heavy pumpers;
#16. Restitution to minimal producers for damages of lost land value and pumping costs;
#17. Court recognition of minimal producers as an impacted damaged party by the Stipulation;
#18. Support California Department of Fish & Wildlife's plans at Camp Cady;
#19. Government initiate testing for nitrates, pesticides, and herbicides near alfalfa fields;
#20. Accountability of Compliance.
This is the time to be heard. Will it make a difference?
It might. However, it is skeptically felt by some that this meeting is being solely
held by the Project Team to cover themselves before the court. It is not felt that
two hours being allotted to address the minimal producers' many concerns is meaningful.
These thoughts might be unfair, and the Newberry Springs' hosting organizations for the
January 5th meeting are requesting a uniform outreach of optimism.
This meeting is important because it will give the residential water
producers an opportunity to voice concerns prior to a possible Amicus curiæ brief
being prepared for the court should the final Plan continue to not adequately address the
minimal producers' plight. With the new state groundwater act, the court will be
having a greater responsibility. The minimal producers need to unite, align with
the state's Fish & Wildlife, and the state's Attorney General, monitor the court, and
seek state and federal assistance to correct the inequities.
Unite and be heard !
If you are a minimal producing residential water pumper, please
attend the meeting (above) and protect your water rights. If you don't know what has
been going on, please come and listen. The alfalfa pivot farmers have been taking your
groundwater for years and laughing everytime they make a bank deposit. Your attendance
can help protect you from the need of drilling a deeper well; and help the future of Newberry
Disclaimers included in the Baja Areawide Sustainability Plan
"...this plan does not guarantee the alternatives will be implemented,
nor that their implementation will provide the exact benefits indicated." (Draft - page 12)
"The Baja Plan is a high-level planning exercise which has as a
primary purpose of documenting the collaborative effort with stake-
holders to identify options and theoretical results of actions that could
be implemented in the Plan area." (Draft - page 77; bold emphasis added.)