Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District is preparing to import water and serve customers as storms continue to pound California.
Just months ago, the district was in extreme drought. The latest map released by the U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday, March 7, showed that western Kern County is out of the drought while the Tehachapi area remains “abnormally dry.” Storms brought rain last week and what has been termed an “atmospheric river” is expected to continue this week. The additional rain may move the rest of the county out of drought.
The latest storms also may trigger an increased allocation of water from the State Water Project.
The agenda for the March 15 meeting of the district’s Board of Directors includes a report from General Manager Tom Neisler. He noted the report may be updated before the actual meeting.
“I am exceedingly surprised at the changed hydrologic conditions we are experiencing this water year,” Neisler said in a report to the board. “I am even more grateful than I am surprised. We have much more water available for our customers than I imagined in my wildest dreams when planning for 2023 commenced last fall.”
Neisler said the current SWP Table “A” allocation is 35 percent, but there are indications that amount may increase.
“Unfortunately, any future increases may be announced too late to provide full benefit to our customers,” he said.
Reservoir conditions and snowpack are among the factors the Department of Water Resources will consider for a potential increase in allocation.
He will discuss the season’s operating plan and challenges with the board at its March 15 meeting. If the allocation stays at 35 percent, without water from some other source the district will not be able to serve all customer needs and will use the water priority ordinance that the board approved on Feb. 15 to guide water sales.
Also on the agenda for the March 15 meeting are the approval of this year’s requests for temporary assignments of water rights. The meeting will begin at 3 p.m. at the district office, 22901 Banducci Road, Tehachapi.
The board held a special meeting on March 7 to approve groundwater allocations for the Cummings Basin and to consider finance options for a $12 million engine replacement project.
No one spoke at a public hearing concerning the groundwater allocations and they were approved by the board as presented.
Director Rick Zanutto asked a question about the allocation for land that Bear Valley Community Services District owns in the Cummings Basin and leases for farming. Neisler said that the district’s legal counsel and Bear Valley CSD’s legal counsel had discussed it and that there was agreement that allowing the CSD’s tenant — Grimmway Farms — to use the BVS allocation on its crops while another CSD tenant uses recycled water to irrigate sod is in everyone’s best interest.
Last year, the first year for Cummings Basin allocations since they were restated by the court, Bear Valley leased its allocation of water to Grimmway and the district board has discussed that possibility again this year.
Neisler said it's no secret that Grimmway is Bear Valley’s tenant. He said the BVS allocation is only about a third of the water the company needs to plant a crop on the property.
Zanutto said he had a different view but would accept the view shared by Neisler.
The district plans to replace all eight engines in its pump plants 2 and 3 at a cost of about $12 million. Business Manager LaMinda Madenwald provided an overview of financing the capital expenditure.
Jeff Land of Brandis Tallman, a division of Oppenheimer & Co., Inc., and Dmitry Semenov of Ridgeline Municipal Strategies, LLC, discussed ways that the project might be financed. After more than an hour of deliberation, the board adopted the resolution approving the engagement agreements with the financing team and directed them and staff to investigate a 15 year option.
Claudia Elliott is a freelance journalist and former editor of the Tehachapi News. She lives in Tehachapi and can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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