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“Madness and arrogance” blamed for one lawsuit against desert groundwater agency

 •  by Lois Henry
The Indian Wells Valley water basin is considered critically overdrafted with only 7,600 acre feet a year of natural recharge and 33,000 acre feet a year of demand.

Two lawsuits accusing the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority of ramming through a plan that ignores water rights and, according to one plaintiff, is intended to “destroy agriculture” were filed this week.

At issue is a controversial $2,000-per-acre-foot fee approved by the authority last month that would be charged to certain groundwater users over a five-year period. That money is intended to raise $50 million to buy Central Valley water and, somehow, bring it over the Sierra Nevadas to replenish the overdrafted desert aquifer.

Two of the pumpers who would have to pay the $2,000 fee disagreed — vehemently — with the authority’s decision to prioritize groundwater for the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake at the expense of other users, one of which claims a higher groundwater right than the Navy.

The suits were filed separately by Searles Valley Minerals and Mojave Pistachios.

“This suit seeks no relief against the Navy and it is made necessary by the madness and arrogance of former Navy Base Commander Mick Gleason and his intention to destroy agriculture and specifically us,” said Rod Stiefvater, owner of Mojave Pistachios in a statement.

Gleason, a Kern County Supervisor, is chairman of the authority.

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