The IWV Groundwater Authority's Policy Advisory Committee held its monthly meeting on Wednesday evening. The meeting had a lengthy discussion about the PAC's purpose and procedures, as well as a review of a potential action item schedule presented to them at the meeting.
The conversation about PAC purpose and procedure happened after PAC member Nick Panzer stood and read a handout he had prepared with arguments for and against cancelling future PAC meetings. The concept of cancelling future PAC meetings came up as a suggestion from PAC members Scott O'Neil and Carol Wilson at the November PAC meeting.
The PAC's purpose, according to IWVGA bylaws, is to advise on policy issues related to creating a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) for the Indian Wells Valley. IWVGA also has a Technical Advisory Committee which will advise on technical aspects of the GSP, such as groundwater models and groundwater basin recharge rates. The GSP itself will mostly be written by Stetson Engineers Inc., the firm hired by IWVGA to act as their Water Resources Manager. Finally, elements of the GSP will need to be approved by the IWVGA board of directors.
O'Neil and Wilson stated at the November meeting that they wished to cancel PAC meetings because they believed two things which they felt halted the committee’s progress. First, the IWVGA had told them that they're not allowed to discuss anything IWVGA hadn't tasked them with. Second, they believed that the IWVGA board had not directly tasked them with anything.
O'Neil, Wilson, and many other PAC members were absent from the December PAC meeting. Panzer's list of arguments against cancelling were that continuing PAC meetings would allow public to voice opinions at PAC meetings — though he stated PAC would only be able to direct those comments to the IWVGA board. It also stated that PAC members may have announcements or comments in meetings.
The arguments he provided for cancelling meetings included a number of items, such as avoiding demoralizing action-less meetings, avoiding the cost of holding meetings, and avoiding waste of time holding meetings when there was nothing for them to do.
In the end, Panzer said that if he had to support one side, he would support cancelling future PAC meetings until the GSP had progressed to a point where it was ready for policy advise and the IWVGA board had given the PAC direct tasks.
Following his comments, Kern County planning director Lorelei Oviatt and new PAC member representing business interests David Janiec offered a different view on the PAC's procedures and how it takes direction from IWVGA. They offered a broader interpretation of how the IWVGA tasks the PAC.
While Panzer had believed that IWVGA would have to directly task-specific action items to the PAC, Oviatt and Janiec offered the interpretation that IWVGA only needed to task general ideas to the PAC and then the PAC could work under that idea. For example, IWVGA has tasked the PAC with public outreach, and so the PAC could be allowed to make policy suggestions on anything that could enhance public outreach.
For more specific tasking, they argued that if an item makes it onto the agenda, then it has in effect been tasked by IWVGA. The PAC must send a proposed meeting agenda to Stetson, who then approves it and forwards it to IWVGA legal staff, who then approves it and sends it back to Stetson, who then sends it back to the PAC. Oviatt and Janiec argued that if an item stays on the agenda through that process, it's okay for the PAC to discuss.
Following this discussion, Panzer stated that he may have misunderstood the procedure laid out by IWVGA and its legal staff. He said that if this is the case, he rescinds his support for cancelling future PAC meetings.
Members of the public Derek Hoffman and Josh Nugent urged the PAC to continue meeting.
Hoffman sympathized with the sentiment that some of the early PAC meetings may not be very productive, but stated that if they cancelled their meetings they would be sure to get nothing done.
Nugent said that while they may be slogging through the mud, they're still making forward progress and that's better than not moving at all. He urged them to keep slogging.
In the end, the PAC decided to continue meeting, and in the process of reaching the decision, they had a thorough conversation on the process of how committees operate under the IWVGA, which in turn was a valuable policy discussion.
On another item at the PAC meeting, they reviewed a draft schedule of potential future PAC action items, along with an updated and far more detailed Plan of Actions and Milestones chart.
Some of the items are local funding options by early 2018, present an outreach plan by March 2018, discuss imported water options by June 2018, and discuss a GSP draft by Sept. 2019.
The PAC agreed to meet next on Jan. 4 at 6 p.m.