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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

Earlier this month, Mojave Pistachios issued a press release on the Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal’s order compelling the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (Authority) to demonstrate why the Court should not permit our challenge to the Authority’s pumping allocations to proceed.

The response from Authority General Counsel Keith Lemieux?

"They're so desperate for any kind of news basically they just issued a press release saying the court did not throw out their appeal," Mr. Lemieux said to a reporter for The Daily Independent.

Contrary to the Authority’s spin, a writ is not an appeal. Writs constitute extraordinary relief granted in less than 10% of cases. The Court of Appeal only issues an order to show cause like it did in this case, where the issues are important and it believes the request may have merit. The order by the Appeals Court also included a stay to stop further trial court proceedings until the Court of Appeal has a chance to look into things. This is meaningful because it validates what we have been saying for the last few years, and our local communities have a right to know.

The Authority is using California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to unconstitutionally choose winners and losers.

Mojave Pistachios has the strong support of the California Farm Bureau, Western Growers Association and Searles Valley Minerals because this legal fight with the Authority is bigger than our business. It has statewide implications. And folks up and down the state are paying attention.

The Authority wants agriculture to stay quiet and accept their abuse of SGMA, but we will not do so. Mojave Pistachios has paid over $1 million to the Authority only for the Authority to deny us any water allocation whatsoever. This is a true case of taxation without representation, and the public has a right to know.

(Ridgecrest) – The Fourth Appellate District, Court of Appeal issued an order last week compelling the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (IWVGA) to show cause as to why the Court should not grant Mojave Pistachios’ petition for writ of mandate in its legal action challenging the IWVGA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). Mojave’s petition asks the court to rule on questions of state-wide importance, including that pumping allocations adopted by groundwater sustainability agencies like the IWVGA must be consistent with California groundwater rights law.

In 2020, Mojave filed suit against the IWVGA, asking the court to invalidate the IWVGA’s unconstitutional GSP and actions implementing the GSP and requesting more than $255,000,000 in damages. 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 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. Appellate courts rarely grant writ relief; approximately 90-95 percent of petitions for writ of mandate are summarily denied.

The California Farm Bureau, Western Growers Association and Searles Valley Minerals each filed an amicus letter with the Court in support of Mojave’s petition. In its letter, Western Growers Association states “We believe that the trial court order in this case is contrary to SGMA and undermines the longstanding rights of landowners.”

Last week’s order gives the IWVGA an opportunity to submit a formal response brief and the parties may then request oral argument. Further, the order also stays the trial court case pending a further order from the Court of Appeal.

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

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