The Kern River Groundwater Sustainability Agency meeting was held on Thursday, April 1, 2021 remotely from Bakersfield on GoToMeetings. Chairman Rodney Palla called the meeting to order at 10:00am and there was a quorum so the board voted to approve the minutes. There was no public comment but there was written comment from Arvin Edison WSD regarding a well application. There was other correspondence received along with other routine reports.
The financial report was given by Randy McKeegan, City of Bakersfield which showed a $458,000 balance in the KRGSA’s trust fund. It’s been a while since I’ve covered this meeting but I don’t know of any other GSA having a trust fund arrangement for its finances. Director Gene Lundquist moved to approve the financial report and the board agreed.
Annual SGMA Report
Next the annual SGMA report was the topic. Phyllis Stanin of Todd Groundwater walked the board through the report. Stanton said the Kern Subbasin is the largest subbasin in the state. She said the report is being submitted to DWR today, the deadline is today. This is the first full year of GSP implementation. The first SGMA report didn’t cover a full year, but this year groundwater elevations are shown from 1995 to date. Groundwater extraction, surface supply and total use, change in groundwater storage since 1995 and a GSP progress report from the 19 agencies in the subbasin as well as an aggregate report for the entire subbasin is all included in this report.
It takes at least 39 data sets to begin generating the report and conditions since 1995 are compiled. It looked like the Kern River model analyses followed the San Joaquin Valley as a whole. Three of the last five years have been dry and that will impact the trend. The Cal Poly SLO has been using satellite imaging to develop evapotranspiration rates. The trend through the Valley has been to contract with Land IQ and I’m not sure of the relation between Cal Poly and that company.
There was 1.4 million a/f of surface supplies with 861,000 a/f brought in by the Friant Kern Canal and the California Aqueduct. The rest came from the Kern River and other local streams. There was 1.8 million a/f of pumping recorded in the subbasin. The dry year caused a greater than normal amount of pumping from the banked supplies so it wasn’t as big a drawdown compared to surface supplies as it appears. The Kern banks were doing what they are supposed to do. Stanin said the 2020 water year looked a lot like 2016. Urban pumping is fairly steady throughout all the years studied. The model showed a 3.2 million a/f supply and a usage of three million a/f. A total of negative 788,000 a/f change of groundwater storage took place over the past five years and although that is a large amount it is actually showing a positive trend. The rate of groundwater depletion is slowing and is on track to reverse.
Stanin showed a hydrograph of a well over many years. There was a pretty steady level until the drought hit and at that point the minimum threshold was hit. However that didn’t trigger an undesirable result as it requires multiple sites to drop to minimum threshold. She said this year’s annual report is benefiting from the Basin Coordination Committee’s work. There are more regional subsidence investigations and GEI Engineering has been contracted to develop the data management system. She’s excited about that.
There are 46 pages of text and tables at the end of the report showing DWR the individual progress from the 19 agencies in the subbasin. Projects and management actions are shown and she was especially pleased with the KRGSA’s section and encouraged folks to give it a read.
Steve Teglia, General Manager of Kern Delta Water District thanked Stanin and gave her and her staff praise for the work and cooperation shown in getting this report together. Palla asked if the set time frames are carved in stone. For instance what about changes in the future altering the averages the GSP is set from? Stanin said DWR can’t change the law but they have been working with the GSAs and making an effort to deal with this. She said they realize averages change over time by adding more and more years to the mix. It sounded to me she felt that will be taken into account as time goes on.
Palla also asked about using more inactive wells for monitoring as they don’t pump and could give a better static water level reading. Stanin said the problem is the inactive wells don’t have the documented history but again as time goes on they can be helpful.
Lundquist asked if there was any hiccup or problem experienced that can be avoided in the future. Stanin said the help, cooperation and quality of expertise from staff, including Patty Poire at the Kern Groundwater Authority has been overwhelmingly positive. The problem has been lack of data available for modeling. Much of this is new territory yet explored. She also noted the DWR’s SGMA portal has also been challenged with growing pains. She said gathering the data from 244 wells, getting it on the SGMA portal and off again has been difficult.
State Board Mischief
A gentleman identified as Rick Iger but he didn’t look like the Rick Iger I know from Provost & Pritchard gave a report. Could be a coincidence or a relative or maybe God made two Rick Igers. Anyway, he reported a comment letter to the State Board about a report its staff wrote trying to link climate change to changing water rights was written by attorney Valarie Kincaid. He said the letter was very well worded, the KRGSA has signed off on it and the opinions and concerns have been sent to Sacramento.
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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.
Kings River GSA is Chairman Rodney Palla Kern Delta Water District, Bob Smith City of Bakersfield and Gene Lundquist Kern County Water Agency all located in the Kern Subbasin. The DWR # is 5-22.14