top of page

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.

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s (IWVGA) June 20th opinion piece raises serious questions.

Why is the IWVGA spending taxpayer dollars on an opinion piece touting their attorney’s role in the Las Posas Basin groundwater case settlement in Ventura County? Was it the IWVGA’s $105/acre-foot Extraction Fee or the IWVGA’s $2,130/acre-foot Replenishment Fee that footed the bill for the staff time that was involved?

If, as the opinion piece says, the IWVGA is serious about wanting to “look to Las Posas as a model to settle some of our problems” here in the Indian Wells Valley Basin, will the IWVGA adopt the following key aspects of the Las Posas settlement?

  • Will the IWVGA agree, like the Fox Canyon GMA did in Las Posas, that its GSP will be subject to complete review to correct defects, including an inaccurate sustainable yield, subject to court oversight?

  • Will the IWVGA revise its water allocation system, which gives farmers zero allocation, so that here, like in Las Posas, all overlying users are given a pumping allocation?

  • Will the IWVGA grant, as planned in Las Posas, many overlying users an additional “variance” on top of their allocations to allow additional production?

  • Will the IWVGA allow current allowable pumping (initial operating yield) to exceed the safe yield, as agreed to in Las Posas?

  • Will the IWVGA defer planned pumping reductions for the next five years, while projects to enhance yield are developed, as planned in Las Posas?

  • Will the IWVGA craft its system of projects so that there would be no need for pumping reductions if projects proceed as planned?

  • Will the IWVGA rescind its $2,130/acre-foot Replenishment Fee and adopt an approximately $200/acre-foot assessment on allocations, as envisioned in Las Posas, to fund these projects?

  • Will the IWVGA structure its system in a way that the avoidance of pumping reductions is not dependent on imported water, as contemplated in Las Posas?

  • Will the IWVGA set up its governance structure like the Fox Canyon GMA Board, which has an agricultural representative and is comprised of parties that actually pump groundwater?

  • Will the IWVGA elevate the role of our Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) and Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), so that they are true analytic bodies that will provide detailed written recommendations on all important basin management decisions? Will the IWVGA actually listen to the members of our community? Will the IWVGA agree, like Fox Canyon GMA did, that if the IWVGA fails to follow a PAC or TAC recommendation, it must explain its decision in writing, subject to the court’s oversight?

The community deserves answers.

Rod Stiefvater, Mojave Pistachios

bottom of page