The East Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its board of directors meeting in Exeter on Monday, October 28, 2019. The board met in the upstairs room of the Exeter Museum. I think this used to be a jail; for sure it’s had a seismic retrofit. Chairman Joe Ferrara called the meeting to order at 3:00pm. These meeting used to be packed and they still serve cookies and snacks but today was a lighter crowd. Lots of empty seats in the room. The usual parliamentary procedure got the housekeeping items out of the way: roll call, minutes, agenda and public comment were all completed.
EKGSA Manager Michael Hagman gave the board a reasonably detailed breakdown of the fiscal year 2020 budget. Hagman is also the GM of Lindmore Irrigation District. LID has agreed to allow Hagman to continue in the roll of EKGSA Manager and of course EKGSA likes the idea of the continuity. Hagman comes from an accounting background; in fact I think he has earned a CPA title. That went well and Hagman will continue in his current leadership position.
The board was good with the budget for the most part. EKGSA has to look at a Prop 218 election pretty soon but more data is needed to get past the engineering part to make the election viable. The member agencies will loan the GSA the money needed to continue the operations in the meantime. That’s a unique way to fund things and they’ve discussed this in the past. They need $2.5 million and attorney Joe Hughes suggested tying the loan and the call for funds together in one motion. That went well and they all agreed.
Land IQ is a company getting good traction in the Valley for providing GSAs data on evapotranspiration at the field level. Land IQ will give monthly and annual reports for the next three years at a cost of $1.10 per acre per year. EKGSA has 117,300 acres and Land IQ will track about 83,000 acres. So for a little more than $91,000 a year. Hagman said Land IQ has removed restrictive contract language about not sharing the gathered data because this is a public agency. The board agreed to these terms and we can expect a report in January.
How to pay for all this good stuff? A grant of course, because in California it’s always better to pay extra high taxes to the state, let the state skim off the top to cover its needs and then fill out lots of paperwork to compete in getting a portion of what money is left over. The engineering firm of Provost & Pritchard is willing to fill out the paperwork for a cost and in a manner consistent with the rules imposed by DWR under Prop 68 for planning costs.
Stacie Ann Silva with consultants New Currents talked about a Regional Conservation Investment Strategy. This will help prepare plans for further down the road. This effort will cost money, but the money will come from other Prop 68 funds. The idea behind this is to help landowners who may have to fallow or retire their land under SGMA. Director David Roberts of Stone Corral ID was concerned because the UN has called for the “re-naturalization of land” and he knows growers in Baja California growing berries at $14 per worker per day. They own and operate reverse osmosis plants and he believes we’re cutting our own throat. Roberts was concerned about some of the players in the proposal. Hagman didn’t dispute Roberts but he said this RCIS is a way for the sub basin to get someone else to pay for the planning portion. The California Department Fish & Wildlife has the approval for the grant award. Now, there are some queasy components for any red blooded farmer. The Environmental Defense Fund will be an advocate for EKGSA in securing the grant. The plan funded by the grant will quite possibly be written by the International Conservation Fund. New Currents’ role in all is; EDF is their client. Director Kyler Crocker confirmed there is an off ramp for local growers. This plan will not obligate or require any landowner to abide by the whatever RCIS comes to life. The board approved going further with this.
Hagman said he and P&P engineer Matt Klinchuch are going through the comments on the GSP. He said the key here is to avoid conflict with the cities and county about comments. Amanda Monaco of the Leadership Justice League was asking about how transparent the comment responses will be. If I understood correctly her NGO sent in 25 pages or so and Hagman
said if she has more pages they need to be sent right away. Local grower Karen Johannes was also concerned about her comments being addressed by the board and not just staff. Hughes will have to review each comment and response for legal evaluation and not each and every comment in the normal method is tracked individually. Will resolving a comment require a policy change in the GSP? That’s a consideration. Hagman said there are at least five internal reviews. Crocker, who is also a Tulare County Supervisor suggested when sending a comment letter to the GSA include a request for a cc to the entire board.
It’s not an easy thing to take a trashcan full of comments (most of which arrived just under the deadline) and crank out responses that address all the needs of the GSP, satisfy each respondent and keep the peace.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2019 by Don A. Wright
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.
EAST KAWEAH GSA 315 E. Lindmore Street, Lindsay, CA 93247. Telephone 559/562-2534. Mailing address PO Box 908 Lindsay, CA 93247 Meetings are generally the 4th Monday of the month at the Lindsay Wellness Center at 3:00 pm.
Members: County of Tulare, City of Lindsay, Exeter ID, Ivanhoe ID, Lindsay Strathmore ID, Lindmore ID and Stone Corral ID
Staff: Michael Hagman – Executive Director, Joe Hughes – Attorney
DWR Listing: Basin San Joaquin Valley, Sub Basin Kaweah 5-022.11