New IWD GM worried about completing horizontal well project: District still seeking new legal counsel

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Foster Lake at noon Friday, Jan. 20.
Photo by Jim nessheim

Besides bad news about the feasibility of the recycled water project, Idyllwild Water District directors learned that the project to rehabilitate the horizontal wells above Foster Lake has problems.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave IWD $215,000 in 2015 to rehabilitate these wells and five vertical wells. However, General Manager Jack Hoagland told the board last week that the project’s termination date is Aug. 3, 2017, and no work has started.

“I’ve met with Tom Lovejoy [former IWD general manager] and Herb Bergstrom [water consultant], but I haven’t gotten to the site yet,” Hoagland said, beginning his presentation about the horizontal well project. “But this presents a huge challenge … not many people understand horizontal wells.”

While some rehabilitation is possible, Hoagland said it was not sufficient to provide the reliability that the district needs.

He did think that two vertical wells might help district supply.

Hoagland also could not explain why the district was not prepared to proceed with the project once the grant money was awarded. 

Director Steve Kunkle urged Hoagland to try to accomplish as much as possible. Water from horizontal wells is usually less costly than vertical wells because fewer or no pumping costs are needed to obtain the water.

In other business, the board appointed new Director Peter Szabadi to the Ad Hoc Legal Representation Committee. With the recent resignation of former Director June Rockwell, the remaining director on the committee is Vic Sirkin.

In reviewing two law firms, one, Best, Best and Krieger, withdrew because of possible conflicts between IWD and Fern Valley Water District, which BBK already represents.

The committee will present another report at the February meeting.

The board held a special closed session prior to its meeting. The subject was the current lawsuit the former IWD board filed against Kunkle, who did not attend the closed session, alleging negligence when he was an employee of the district.

President Dr. Charles Schelly reported that the board asked its counsel to pursue resolution of the suit.

IWD customers used 5.8 million gallons of water in December, according to Hoagland. That is about 240,000 gallons more than December 2015. 

For the entire year, IWD consumption was 80.8 million gallons, which is 6.4 million gallons more than the 2015 consumption of 74.5 million gallons. However, the 2016 volume was the lowest since 2002 except for 2015.

Hoagland also reported that the groundwater level of many district wells was beginning to rise.

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