Purchase will let district pump more from underground to offset cuts  in deliveries caused by drought. Famland, infrastructure cost $14 million

Taking another step in its plan to expand its well field, the West Kern Water District Board of Directors on Tuesday approved the purchase of nearly 500 acres of farmland.
The sale price – $14 million – will come from the sale of $35 million in bonds.
The district, buffeted by severely decreased deliveries from the California Aqueduct and a three-year drought, is expanding its ability to serve domestic and industrial users with a plan to increase production from underground supplies north of Tupman.
The project includes pipelines and pumps to get the water to district pump stations.
The farmland is owned by Coldwater Farms, Franmar Company, MBDS Company, and P & R Almond Ochards.
In a related matter, the board authorized an environmental study on an alternative route for the project's final pipeline alignment.
J.D. Bramlet, assistant general manager/production, told the board that a review of the original pipeline alignment with consultants and the Kern Water Bank Authority led to a shorter route.
“It's actually a shorter route by .9 of a mile,” he said.  “This proposed route will be a little bit easier for West Kern.  We do have approval from KWBA.  It also saves about $1 million.”
Consultant Tom Barnes told the district that switching the pipeline route will require additional biological and cultural field studies.
The board's action authorized those studies.
Increasing precipitation levels in the northern Sierras is giving water districts something to be optimistic about.
After seeing its allocation of state water reduced the past three years, the district is looking at getting 45 percent of its normal allocation this year.
General Manager Harry Starkey told the board that current daily precipitation levels are running ahead of last year and are actually above average.
“There's a 50-50 chance that Oroville will fill sometime this year,” he said.  “We're going to keep a close eye on that.”
The improved conditions, hopefully, will translate to more water for the district.
“It's going to free up some water,” he said.