The Kern Groundwater Authority Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its directors meeting on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce. KGA Chair Dennis Mullins called the meeting a hair past 8:00am. I was graciously given the opportunity during public comment (actually the law requires I be allowed to speak but not necessarily to be heard) to invite everyone to the May 30th SGMA Survival Toolkit in Exeter. The minutes were approved and the treasurer’s report was also approved.
Patty Poire, Executive Director spoke about boundary adjustments due to Kern County dropping out of the SGMA process. White areas are now being included in other GSAs. Cawelo Water District’s GSA is one case in point and the board had to agree to this alternation on a legal basis and it did so. Poire next spoke about the Prop One grant sub-agreement with the Kern River GSA. The board agreed to the agreement. Last week all the GSAs on the Valley floor side of Kern County got together at the Kern Ag Pavilion for an open house. It was a very good affair and Poire said DWR and the State Board had representatives there and were very impressed. There was a meeting the next day between GSA staff and managers Poire characterized as a productive gathering. She said Sam Bolen-Brian of the State Board reminded everyone the Kern Sub Basin will be evaluated as a whole and is only as strong as its weakest link. Eric Averett, GM Rosedale Rio Bravo WSD said Bolen-Brian said if there is a problem the State Board will deal first with the bad actor. But if the sub basin goes out of whack the State Board will step in with a plan of their own and it will be draconian in comparison. There are scenarios when DWR will review and assist in fixing up the plan and that is preferable. Mullins said the coordination agreement is a very important document that must explain how the complicated stitching together of the various GSAs into a GSP that’s idiot proof.
Poire said the oil industry in Kern County got its say but if the State Board takes over the extraction of water by oil will be taken over also. One more reason to get and keep the Kern Sub Basin’s act together and keep it that way. Having oil extraction lumped into SGMA could be a bad scene. Jim Beck represents some oil interests and he said the State Board’s comments on oil was a e “slap in the face.” He said the differentiation between oil bearing zones and water bearing zones must be made crystal clear. Christine Zimmerman, Western State Petroleum Association said the oil industry in Kern County is very aware of this situation and prepared to work with the GSAs.
The GSP schedule was next and Larry Rodriguez of GEI engineering was asked to comment. Poire said the KGA isn’t responsible for the public outreach and reminded folks each GSA is charged with that task. Poor Rodriguez had put spread sheet up on an overhead and no one could read it; even in the front row. Fortunately it was included in the packet – still hard to read but at least you could see it. It was a fancy timeline with tasks completed checked off and those pending completion left blank. The individual GSAs have a very short time to turn in their GSPs so they can all be compiled as one GSP. I believe he said June 7th is the deadline. Rodriguez also said the review of the GSPs will be stringent as there is an August 30th deadline to release the public draft for review. They want everything wrapped up by November.
Attorney Valerie Kincaid addressed the coordination agreement. She said it has gone through several versions. There are two main GSAs in the Kern Sub Basin; the KGA and the Kern River GSA. There was a motion for the KGA members to accept the coordination agreement. The KRGSA folks in attendance indicated they would also sign the agreement. Kincaid continued saying the State Board has told KGA if the Kern County Water Agency were to take over the white areas and the KGA would indemnify the KCWA all would be acceptable. I understand that Kern County Supervisor David Couch was the lone vote for the county to stay involved with the SGMA process as proscribed by the act. I hope that’s true – at least one person needs to understand the chaos invited by the county pulling out. It’s a last minute scramble but it looks like the KGA is being creative and getting the wound dressed. It was complicated. Under SGMA the county is tasked to cover the white areas but since the Kern County pulled out the KCWA was asked and answered. Otherwise the State Boardsteps in, as mentioned above no one wants that. The indemnification agreement with KGA protecting the KCWA was approved. This approval required the members to accept this change and the JPA reflect this. The KCWA will be dealing with this time at its June meeting so everyone has to get paperwork back. Kincaid said everyone should recognize this was difficult but necessary agreement and be pleased it was accomplished. The meeting then went into closed session.
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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
DWR Listing: Basin San Joaquin, Sub Basin Kern 5-022.14