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I was struck by both the hubris and hypocrisy of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s recent public records request to the Indian Wells Valley Water District detailed in last week’s article titled “Groundwater Authority presses WD for new basin data.”


For over half a decade, the Groundwater Authority has been hiding behind a “confidentiality agreement” with the United States Navy to deny the public requests for access to its self-proclaimed prodigious groundwater model. It has also violated the Public Records Act by refusing to provide water users with documents to support its actions, including its adoption of the highest “replenishment” fee in California. Only now, when the Groundwater Authority is on the cusp of suffering the ultimate indignity of having to acknowledge its dire assessment of groundwater resources in the Indian Wells Valley, the Groundwater Sustainability Plan, and the model it relies upon are a complete sham, does it suddenly have an interest in the public’s right to access and transparency.  


In point of fact, the Groundwater Authority has no interest in transparency of any kind. It lives in a fantasy world in which it spends millions in State grants and its water users’ monies wildly in pursuit of consultants to contract for water supplies that are not financeable, on engineering work for a pipeline that will never be built, and on legal fees defending its actions. None of which would be necessary if it had simply provided public access to the model and data input that we know are skewed.


The Groundwater Authority’s day of reckoning is coming. As the Groundwater Authority is pursuing a 2025 update to its preposterous Groundwater Sustainability Plan, and facing litigation over that plan, the agency is undoubtedly anxious to know what the Water District knows about the real sustainability of the basin. That truth will not be convenient for the Groundwater Authority. Its hypocrisy of demanding transparency for others but not itself is now on peak display.


Rod Stiefvater, Mojave Pistachios

The actions of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority demand public scrutiny.

As we all are aware, the Authority has proposed the development of the Imported Water Conveyance System Project.

Below you will find a compelling letter authored by the Indian Wells Valley Water District outlining several areas where the Authority has yet to demonstrate they have a full understanding of the costs associated with the Project.

From the Authority’s own board packet (also below) -

Updated cost estimate in PDR—$200,536,000, includes 20% Contingency (August 2023)

• These estimates do not include the following:

      • Land Acquisition

      • Permanent easements, temporary construction easements, and fee property

      • Construction Administration

      • Permitting Fees

      • Credits on existing conservation easements for sensitive species take (mitigation)

We trust this information will help spark a constructive dialogue about the future of our groundwater resources.

Download PDF • 317KB

Download PDF • 7.51MB

(Ridgecrest) – The Fourth Appellate District, Court of Appeal issued an order last week granting permission for four amicus briefs to be filed in support of Mojave Pistachios.

In the first amicus brief, submitted by the California Farm Bureau Federation, Dairy Cares, Western Growers Association, and American Pistachio Growers, the authors urged: “The California Legislature did not intend for SGMA to become a tool used to strip landowners of their water rights.”

The second amicus brief, authored by the California Building Industry Association, states that “homebuilders rely on certainty in planning housing development in a time where California faces a housing crisis,” and “if the ruling stands, landowners may receive project permits, but then face a SGMA agency who could declare a zero-water allocation to their project from a particular water basin.”

The court also granted permission to Searles Valley Minerals, Inc. and a coalition of Madera County landowners (Elizabeth Cardoza, Clay Daulton, David Gill, Landon Gill, Michele Lasgoity, Monica Lasgoity, Rosemary Lasgoity, Jeff Lefors, Mark Peters, Sally Roberts, Candace Khanna, Rakesh Khanna, Taisto Smith, SWD Investments, Inc., and SWD Investments-Fulton Ranch, Inc.) to file amicus briefs in support of Mojave Pistachios.

“[The IWVGA] does not have the power, nor should it be able, to de facto adjudicate groundwater rights and then extort a person or entity into paying unlawful fees or risk losing water” stated Searles Valley Minerals, Inc in their brief.

The coalition of Madera County landowners stated, “We believe the trial court’s order in this case is contrary to SGMA and the well-established common law of overlying water rights.”

In 2020, Mojave Pistachios filed suit against the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (IWVGA), asking the court to invalidate the IWVGA’s unconstitutional Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) and actions implementing the GSP. This action came after the IWVGA gave Mojave, a zero-groundwater allocation. The complaint alleges, among other contentions, that the IWVGA misused the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in an attempt to eradicate agriculture from the Indian Wells Valley.

Mojave Pistachios filed its petition for writ of mandate to the Court of Appeal in February after the trial court agreed with the IWVGA’s argument that Mojave Pistachios should not be allowed to challenge the IWVGA’s pumping allocations or prove up its takings case against the IWVGA. Mojave Pistachios is hopeful this petition will cause the IWVGA to comply with SGMA by following the law, not by using strongarm practices that are unfair and divisive. Appellate courts rarely grant writ relief; approximately 90-95 percent of petitions for writ of mandate are summarily denied.

Established in 2011, Mojave Pistachios farms approximately 1,600 acres of pistachios near Ridgecrest, California.

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