The East Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its technical advisory committee meeting on Thursday, January 7, 2021 remotely by Zoom. The meeting was called to order at 8:00am and General Manager Michael Hagman welcomed everyone.
Under administration matters there was a draft document about policy for the GSA’s authority and intent to regulate groundwater pumping. Part of the language deals with allocation of pumping limits or amount of pumping allowed if you will. In order for the Groundwater Sustainability Plans to be implemented it is necessary to have some guidelines to operate by. In the event insufficient surface supplies are not available (more often than not) groundwater will have to be pumped.
Hagman said the EKGSA doesn’t have land use authority. Justine Massey from the NGO Community Water Center was concerned about domestic wells and that is being addressed in the GSP per SGMA. There was a drinking water component that was dropped from a grant application because it wasn’t a good fit for the scoring criteria needed. One of the weaknesses of the entire grant/government complex.
The policy guides being proposed for adoption by the entire board is far ranging. There is all manner of considerations involved in setting policy; Prop 218 assessments, projects identified and funding methods and management actions. So, it’s a two-fold effort – bring in more surface water for recharge and limit pumping – and that is what differs a project from a management action. Hagman said the quickest and more effective thing would be to limit pumping but the toll that would place on the local farm economy isn’t acceptable.
Management areas are options that help deal with the annual overdraft in the GSA. Attendee Mike George, or perhaps he’s a committee member wasn’t convinced the GSA is the only stick and there are more carrots than listed in these policy drafts. His concern is that private enterprise be able to navigate under SGMA and water shortages and he seemed to lean towards management areas.
Hagman said one of the concerns he’s hearing out in the community is smaller farms, less than 500 acres, are going to be forced out of business and have to sell out to bigger growers. He believes the best way to prevent that from happening is to spread the burden over all of the EKGSA and not shuffle it around. I presume he meant not to break it all down into management areas.
There was a tier of costs for overdraft shown ranging from $5 per a/f for the first acre foot and it goes up to $350 per a/f for five a/f or more. If I understood correctly. Using those figures it is estimated to raise $4.3 million annually. Lindsay Strathmore ID GM Craig Wallace said the GSA isn’t the first line of defense in solving overdraft for everyone. He believes it is best for private industry to merge with the GSA. There were many shades of interpretation over how to structure something when money gets involved. Engineer Nick Keller also had some concerns with the wording of the policy and its impact on business. That is really what everyone is focused on or should be, land without water has very little value. If there is no income the water level in a disadvantaged community’s domestic wells is a moot point and a farmer can’t grow crops to provide food and jobs.
Hagman said he believes EKGSA is over drafting 30,000 a/f out of 100,000 a/f in the Kaweah Subbasin. New Current’s Stacie Ann Silva made a good point – if you set the penalty too low there’s no incentive to not over pump. If you set it too high it takes away the incent to grow crops. If crops aren’t being grown the demand for surface water goes down along with recharge. It creates a loop of diminishing returns.
Andrew Hart spoke up and said it’s a little early to set figures for incentives and penalties without a knowing what the allocations will be. Hagman said he tried that a while back but no one found it satisfactory. He said the idea began with charging $50 per acre subbasin wide and purchase land to fallow or retire to decrease demand. I think he was saying the smaller growers will be harmed by too much reliance on management areas or private enterprises going it alone without coordination. He also said he believes a water market is at least five to 10 years away.
Stone Corral ID GM Dale West said his problem is on a dry year his district’s costs for surface water will be more than $350 a/f making pumping the cheaper alternative and defeating the purpose. Ivanhoe ID GM Tom Weddle said it might be good to require the use of surface water when available or raise the penalty for pumping when surface water is available high enough to incentivize surface water usage.
Hagman put up an Excel sheet with the nine management areas within EKGSA that showed where the surface supply was available and how many acres and acre feet are used. He emphasized this was a draft document. There were a dozen columns for variables to be inputted per each management area. At the end the amount of overdraft share per management area was spit out. Some of those areas were in trouble as their ability to bring in surface water is very limited resulting in some very expensive water costs. A breakdown of proposed projects’ costs and benefits was also displayed for comparison.
Provost & Pritchard’s Matt Klinchuch pointed out it was almost 10am and there will be a couple of members who have to leave. And sure enough they left.
Hagman said Land IQ has some monthly evapotranspiration estimates it is very confident in as being spot on accurate. He showed another Excel sheet and said it indicated 159,000 a/f overdraft in 2020 for the entire subbasin. He also said LSID and the City of Lindsay are not overdraft creators. That was based on the Land IQ figures.
Klinchuch said next month’s meeting will revert to the regular schedule of first Friday, February 5th at 10:00am. And that was all there was.
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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.
EAST KAWEAH GSA 315 E. Lindmore Street, Lindsay, CA 93247. Telephone 559/562-2534. Mailing address PO Box 908 Lindsay, CA 93247
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