The Bakersfield City Council says... let the water flow.
Council members voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve an environmental impact report on the city's bid to keep water in the Kern River through Bakersfield, year-round. The fight isn't over, but should Bakersfield prevail, unclaimed water will be sent right down the dried up river bed.
Ask just about anyone and they'll tell you, the city of Bakersfield looks much better when water is running down the Kern River. In 2007, the Kern Delta Water District gave up access to 50,000 acre-feet of water per year. In 2010, it was concluded that there was surplus water on the Kern River. That's the water Bakersfield wants to run down the river, plus another pot of water the city already owns.
"Bakersfield owns one water right that we purchased from Tenneco and we also have another pot of water which is an unallocated source of water, which is up in the State Water Resources Control Board. So what this programmatic EIR says is that the city of Bakersfield intends to run all that water down the river, both pots of water," said councilman Russell Johnson.
And, many local groups like the idea of bringing back the scenic river and habitat that comes with it.
"Much needed improvement for the community. The water is not going to be wasted just for people to look at. It's going to flow through town, restore the aquifer, bring it up to where it should be, and continue on west of town to the city's underground storage facility," said Bill Cooper of the Kern River Parkway Foundation.
But, there will be a fight. Several water agencies want the water too, and they blasted the city's EIR.
"Fundamentally, the EIR does not meet the standards required under CEQA with respect to the wide-ranging comments that were provided in the draft EIR. For example, the EIR remains deficient in analyzing appropriate base line conditions," said Richard Diamond, General Manager at the North Kern Water Storage District
The EIR will likely be challenged on technical grounds. Water rights are hot commodities in agriculture areas like Kern County, so expect a fierce fight and possible lawsuits.