The Kern Groundwater Authority Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its board of directors meeting remotely by Zoom. I believe this is the first board meeting they’ve had in a while. There are no minutes on the agenda needing approval past last October and the November and December, along with the current January financial reports are listed for ratification. I used to get up at 4:30am so I could drive down to Bakersfield to attend this meeting. At one time it was held at the Kern County Board of Supervisors chambers and that’s like a big theater with comfortable chair and plugs in the floor for computers. All the local water celebrities would be there. Got to know the security guards at the metal detector at least a little bit. We shared a certain affinity for the, I’d guess you’d call it post-punk music of Social Distortion and The Blasters. Then the County tried to take over everything by filing an overlying GSA with the State Board and then it withdrew that filing at the last minute. One wonders if that’s why the meeting relocated to the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce building where it was crowded. Then the meeting moved again to some law offices across town in Bakersfield. Things really got standing room only. So, yes it is nice to not drive and stand and drive yet still get to attend this meeting.
The meeting was scheduled to start at 8:00am but the Zoom put us in a waiting pattern. I called in to be sure I wasn’t having problems at my end. An announcement on the phone said there were more than 50 folks on hold and the music started playing. That was interesting for about a minute because in addition to being the usual on hold ear pudding this endless loop sped up and slowed down and started over wherever it was, mid measure or not, didn’t care. It also got increasingly distorted. God help us, we’re living in an age wherein waiting for something to load seems to test the patience like a child waiting for Christmas knowing they’re getting socks and underwear – they still want it to arrive but not as excited about the gifts.
Executive Director Patty Poire put up a notice they were having technical troubles due to the winds in Kern County. It was pretty windy here in Fresno County last night and praise God we had rain and snow and we’re still having rain and snow.
The Meeting Starts
At 8:15 the meeting was opened and Chairman Jason Selvidge welcomed everyone and said we’d do the best we could considering. And things went pretty good from there. There were no public comments and the financial reports were given by Marinelle Duarosan of North Kern Water Storage District. October, November and January financials and bills where accepted and paid.
Attorney Valerie Kincaid reported there have been changes at the Department of Water Resources personnel. She said 2021 is the year where KGA will get the opportunity to be extremely careful about communications with DWR as the GSA is reviewed. She said so far none of the submitted GSPs have been challenged and hopefully the KGS plan will pass. But she asked everyone to respond to DWR inquires with an affirmative that all the required information is in the documentation provided. That’s not verbatim but Kincaid’s point was to follow procedure as the GSPs are being reviewed. It’s uncharted waters. At this point the audio broke down to echoes and remarks only partially heard by some. Vice Chair Dan Waterhouse pushed some buttons and things improved. Somewhere in there Rob Goff asked for the Westside Water Authority to be referred to as the Westside Water District Authority so as those two entities are not confused.
Not sure who was speaking, I think Selvidge said the holiday break is over. He urged everyone to be sure and respond in a timely manner. He said Poire had some difficulty getting responses from some of the members and it is time to put staff and consultants on notice to get with it.
Executive Directors Report
Poire had a few remarks before she began her report. There was a question – would DWR be contacting individual members or will inquires go through the KGA. The answer is DWR will contact KGA. She said she only has access to certain DWR personnel and the chain of communications is what it is. She assured and Selvidge agreed there is no filtering going on. As soon as she gets something from DWR it is distributed to all the entity managers and board members. Good for her.
Under Poire’s itemized agenda items where 12 subitems. The first was general technical support task order for GEI Engineering and it was approved for $25,000. Next was the contract with Provost & Pritchard that would also keep Poire employed. The amount of $291,000 was also approved. Again, good for her. Next was the cash call, the first installment is coming due at $289,000. I couldn’t hear clearly if it was approved or not, but I can’t imagine it wasn’t.
Poire reported there was an attempt to get a Prop 68 grant together for the entire KGA. Todd Groundwater has done a good deal of work to prepare an application to submit to DWR. Somewhere over the past couple of months there wasn’t enough communication and therefore coordination between the KGA members to get the OK on paying for the grant application. This is the grant with the maximum $5 million per subbasin. I think it was Kincaid who explained the chain of decisions at KGA isn’t nimble. The coordination committee is not the decision maker. Once it hears the proposal it has to go back to the home boards and then bring it back to the KGA board and that process wasn’t quick enough to take advantage of this grant application deadline.
Poire said one of the biggest missing pieces of the puzzle in the Kern Subbasin is native groundwater data. She said there are many gaps in the data and this is something predicted from the beginning of SGMA. She said DWR was favorable to a native groundwater yield study and Todd Groundwater is ready for this. To get the right boxes checked for the grant consideration it has to be a management area action and beneficial to disadvantaged communities. Arvin Edison GM Jeevan Muhar said the Kern Integrated Resource Water Management Plan has a scoring system that could be helpful. Good point.
This conversation about the Prop 68 grant was a bit confusing. So let me sort it out to the best of my abilities. If I understand correctly Phase I of the grant was mostly for projects and DWR wanted earth moved and concrete poured. The native yield study wasn’t the right cup of tea at the right time. It may be that Todd will be hired to complete a native yield groundwater study from future grant money.
Other things that happened; The board agreed to contribute to the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint and the board decided to select GEI to handle the KGA data management system.
New Sheriff in Town
Selvidge started as the Vice Chairman of the KGA and we unexpectedly lost the Chair, Dennis Mullens. That was one of many shocks KGA has gone through in its short history. Selvidge expressed his preference for Vice Chairman Dan Waterhouse to take over. The board agreed and Waterhouse was handed the gavel. His first word as Chair was to announce he’ll be giving a unity speech later today. LOL. Kincaid told the board whoever assumes the role of vice chair be ready to work as things are heating up again. That must have dampened the adore of anyone stepping forward because there was nobody willing to nominate anyone. Folks were invited to nominate themselves. Someone nominated Brandon Morris of South San Joaquin MUD, he didn’t nominate himself but like a deer in the headlights he was voted in.
The Executive Committee needed filling and there were a few, well known names tossed in for the seven member seats. That was not approved at this meeting because I think some of those nominated are willing to serve but were not available to accept.
Poire told the board the boundary adjustments are ongoing and the Kern River GSA has been very cooperative in helping landowners get situated in a GSA. Otherwise if a landowner decides to remain out of a GSA he’ll have to report directly to the State Board. Poire said with the changes of personnel at DWR the State Board has asked to meet with them mid-year before finishing the boundary. The annual report due will cover the entire Kern Subbasin and it’s KGA’s duty to compile this report. Whether the boundaries are finalized or not the entire subbasin will be covered and that’s what has kept Kern out of probation with the State Board.
Next Poire spoke about $200,000 of grant money that could be spent on remote sensors provide it’s spent by the end of year. The name of Land IQ once again came up. This was not an action item but it looks like a deal may be worked out soon between Land IQ and KGA.
Kincaid and Poire explained DWR told them in a conference call KGA is the single point of contact in the Kern Subbasin as per SGMA. She’ll be the conduit for other GSAs in the subbasin but she will not be dealing with specific non KGA business. In other words if the Buena Vista GSA is having issues with DWR or the State Board Poire won’t be involved. But if DWR or the State Board has issues with the KGA she will be.
That about wrapped things up and there was one closed session item dealing with potential litigation. The open session adjourned at about 9:30am and that was that.
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SGMA The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 calls for the formation of Groundwater Sustainability Areas within Basins and Sub-basins to develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans.
Board: Chairman – Jason Selvidge Rosedale Rio Bravo WSD, Vice Chair – Dan Waterhouse Semitropic WSD
Staff: Patty Poire – Executive Director, Valerie Kincade – Attorney
The Kern Groundwater Authority membership:
Arvin-Edison Water Storage District, Cawelo Water District, City of Shafter, Kern County Water Agency, Kern-Tulare Water District, Kern Water Bank Authority, North Kern Water Storage District, Olcese Water District, Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District, Semitropic Water Storage District, Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District, Southern San Joaquin Municipal Utility District, Tejon-Castaic Water District, West Kern Water District, Westside District Water Authority & Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Water Storage District
DWR Listing: Basin San Joaquin, Sub Basin Kern 5-022.14