The Kern Groundwater Authority Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its Wednesday, January 23, 2019 board of directors meeting at the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce headquarters in downtown Bakersfield. We used to meet at the Kern County Board of Supervisors chambers but the county skinnied out on taking care of the white areas. The Chamber of Commerce room was much smaller and it was standing room only. There wasn’t immediately a quorum but Chairman Dennis Mullins began the meeting a little after 8:00pm.

Planning Manger Patty Poire reported on the change of Kern County leaving the JPA of the KGA GSA. There will be some changes in the JPA but this was all thought out in advance by attorney Valerie Kincaid, so there won’t be too big a hassle. The next report was boundary modification for West Kern Water District’s GSA. Soon to retire (so I hear) General Manager Harry Starkey said the oil infused hills will remain a part of the GSA. At this point it appears getting boundary modifications through DWR will become more and more difficult.

In the meantime a quorum was gathered and the discussion went back to action items and with a modest change the minutes were approved. The Treasurer’s report was given. Marinelle Duarosan of North Kern Water Storage District. The report didn’t include the unaudited figures but the board accepted it.

Swapping Authority

Poire reported to the board about the process of changing the participation percentages. Another change resulting from the county leaving is the amount of money each member will contribute. Staff is developing some recommendations on how to reassign contributions equitably. GEI Engineers have come up with a tight schedule to meet the GSP deadlines under SGMA. Poire said the board will become more involved in setting policy as this process moves forward. Each member of the KGA will submit its own GSP and they all will be comingled as chapters in the overarching GSP. This is crunch time for GSP development all over the state. Poire was asked if the board needed to double down on following the billing and she said ask GEI’s Larry Rodriguez or even Kincaid if they are being held to rigorous standards. The answer was yes.

Rodriguez spoke to the subject saying March 22nd will be the deadline for receiving the chapter GSPs for review. GEI will do a checklist review to be sure the chapters are in compliance. Within a month that will be returned to the members. By July 11th GEI has scheduled a deadline to received the final chapter drafts and that will be put together as a public draft by August 30th and sent out for 90-day review period. The final public review will be received in December and in January it will be sent to DWR for evaluation. Rodriguez said it is a tight schedule. Poire said there is a Provost & Pritchard consultant to help with this should a member need a workshop or some other form of assistance. Poire said there are weekly meetings where all the GSA managers get together for reviews and discussions. Mullins asked Rodriguez who’s the boss hog at GEI for KGA and Rodriguez is that man. This matter was task order #7 that was approved. There was another task order, 2019’s task order #7 with GEI. Poire said this order is a way to clean up some billing and related accounting from last year.

Like Oil & Water

The oil industry has asked to have a non-voting advisor added to the board. Poire recommended the oil industry submit five names to choose from. She thinks it’s a good idea to have their knowledge on water quality especially. Mullins liked the idea saying the oil industry is an important part of Kern County. I’d like to get to know more about oil and its interplay with ag. There’s so much SJW hysteria around the subject. Director Jason Selvidge, Rosedale Rio Bravo WSD asked if it was necessary to have five names – why wouldn’t the oil folks pick their own guy. Kincaid said having an associate member of the board is one thing; having another consultant is a different matter. The board didn’t want to select someone, it wanted the oil folks to choose. Mullins said he’d like to see that.

The next item was the Prop One Grant agreement with the Kern River GSA. Poire said this is a subgrant agreement and she hopes to have the details before the board next month. Starkey chairs the urban committee and it hasn’t met since last board meeting. Poire said the GSA Policy Coordination meeting discussed water budgets and coordination. She said even though things slowed a little over the recent holidays there were still some accomplishments achieved: the second draft of the basin setting was released, new well permit processes were discussed with the Kern County Health Department and other things.

Still Swapping

There was no new business or correspondence. Kincaid reported she’s been speaking with the Kern County Water Agency about taking the county’s place in covering white areas and she feels KCWA has a good handle in what this will entail. Nothing in writing yet and they don’t really want to be in such a position. She has been in contact with the State Board. That resulted in information about the white areas. The State Board has a great deal of flexibility when it comes to them placing a sub basin on probationary status. However, they white land has to be covered by a GSA or the State Board will step in. If I understood correctly Kincaid didn’t want to get ahead of the KCWA but the KGA should consider what it would be willing to do should the white areas not find a GSA covering. She said this would be a tremendous amount of redrawing the maps. She cautioned against throwing the white areas to the State Board wolves so to speak. They will charge fees and fines out the butt. She said to consider a stakeholder meeting for the white areas. She said it makes her nervous to let this matter continue past February. She also said it looks as though the State Board views the oil industry as water users. Eric Averett, GM RRBWSD said it is too late to start this from scratch. He said there just isn’t time to contact hundreds of landowners and set up new elections. Kincaid agreed it will be a big task but the more unmanaged land the more likely for the State Board to step in. Averett said there is a two-year grace period to revise the GSP. And although the white areas will be harmed it is beyond the KGA’s ability to remedy this. Director Bill Taube, Kern Water Bank said, “This stinking fish needs to be laid at the doorsteps of [Kern] County.” Mullins hopes there may be a way to split the baby without harming it. Getting the word from KCWA is going to be the first step. Jim Beck, former GM of KCWA said it too late to complete the outreach needed but the KGA has tried its best to cover this and that could weigh positively in the State Board’s opinions. Poire reminded everyone the county didn’t just kick the KGA to the curb – all the GSAs in Kern County are impacted. 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.

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