Local Groundwater Planning Efforts Move Forward

The impact of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is being felt locally as stakeholders, water storage and irrigation districts, county leadership and other water experts in the region meet to discuss the new state law’s directives. Plans are being assembled for each sub-basin in the Tulare Lake Basin hydrologic region.

As one can imagine, the impact of these new laws touch all of us, but particularly agriculture. Agriculture represents more than 25% of the employment in the region, and generates a multiplier effect of $3 for every $1 generated by the farm economy. Water is the lifeblood of our irrigated agriculture industry here, and the Tulare County Farm Bureau is actively engaged as the SGMA laws become reality.

In Tulare County the three sub-basins continue with various planning efforts. Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) must be locally formed by qualified public entities by July, 2017. Once formed and approved by the state, each agency must locally fund and implement a study to build a groundwater sustainability plan that provides a 25-year planning framework for achieving sustainability in the groundwater basin. These agencies will regulate essentially all groundwater pumping in the basin.

The Kings River eastern sub-basin, encompassing mostly the Alta Irrigation District’s service area in north Tulare County, remains committed to moving forward with an memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the 14 public entities that are collaborating on forming a GSA. The Farm Bureau, along with a number of other stakeholders, has engaged in monthly meetings hosted by Alta to discuss and deliberate over the details.

AB 1135 was authored by Assembly Member Henry T. Perea to create a special act district which would form a seven-member voting board, and dedicate one board seat to an agriculture representative. AB 1135 was turned into a two-year bill this past July, to give all stakeholders time to work out the finer details.

In the Kaweah sub-basin, which encompasses most of the central part of Tulare County, one GSA has already formed, with a joint powers agreement (JPA)signed by the cities of Visalia and Tulare, and the Tulare Irrigation District. Known as the Mid-Kaweah GSA, it hosted its first JPA board meeting last month, and will hold subsequent monthly meetings on the second Tuesday of the month at 3 pm at the Tulare Public Library in the Council Chambers. The GSA meetings are open to the public.

Other Kaweah planning efforts are emerging, with an expected announcement that the County of Tulare and the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District will also be coordinating a joint GSA with other eligible entities to cover the remaining service area in the Kaweah sub-basin. This is positive news, as a number of land owners in white areas — areas of land for which no specific planning proposals have been adopted — of the Kaweah sub-basin may not have an entity that could form a GSA and a coordinating GSA between the County and KDWCD will potentially cover all the gaps in the remainder of the sub-basin.

Essentially this would avoid allowing the state to be able to come in and declare a white area to be probationary and out of compliance.

To the south end of the county, the Tule sub-basin is also undergoing numerous discussions being coordinated by leaders throughout the south county. The Tule sub-basin has formed a number of stakeholder groups to identify which entities will be applying to form a GSA prior to the July, 2017 deadline.

The Farm Bureau has been actively monitoring these discussions, and helping convene discussions amongst stakeholders in the county on a variety of water-related topics. The Farm Bureau’s goal is to help bring together the voice of agriculture to these meetings and make sure that farmers are represented at the table as these important groundwater regulations are being formed and agencies created that will have long term impact on groundwater pumping and usage in the basin.

Anyone that would like to learn more about SGMA is also encouraged to attend the public forum on Thursday, October 22 in Visalia, at the Assembly Hall at Cafe 210, at 210 W. Center Avenue, 6-8 pm, to learn more about how the SGMA process is being implemented. This meeting is geared to the public to learn the basics of how the laws were created, and how the SGMA process will work.

Learn more at: http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/

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