The Kern Groundwater Authority Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its Wednesday, June 23, 2021 board meeting remotely on Zoom from Bakersfield. There are some very good things about the KGA meetings. The meetings are typically well run, short and informative. Attorney Valerie Kincaid has often been the first to inform many of us about pending problems such as the State Board staff’s investigation into altering water rights based on climate change. Pre-Just West of Japan Virus, the KGA had a problem finding a good location to meet. Last time I attended in person they were meeting in a law firm conference room in Bakersfield that was literally standing room only. So after the meeting everyone scurried away hither and yon to their dispersed offices. There’s not the personal contact one would find at most meetings.
Chairman Dan Waterhouse announced at 8:02am there will be a slight delay from the 8:00am start due to a technical glitch. That didn’t take long. The meeting began at 8:03am with Executive Officer Patty Poire taking roll call. There was a quorum. Public comment was next and I expressed my preference for the option of online and in person meetings. Nataly Escobedo Garcia of the Leadership Council and Leta Spencer both agreed and that was nice to hear.
Kincaid summarized the DWR’s review of the four GSPs recently released to the public. All of them were single GSA subbasins and not part of the Central Valley. It was the low hanging fruit of GSPs and Kincaid said it looked like DWR wanted to start and gain experience with the easier plans. The two GSPs that passed were the Santa Cruz and Salinas Subbasins. They were considered adequate on a scale of adequate, inadequate and incomplete. The two that didn’t pass were deemed incomplete and came from the Cuyama and Paso Robles Subbasins. DWR scored on five criteria. The Cuyama GSP disclosed they were in overdraft but didn’t offer a solution. The other condition that wasn’t addressed by both incomplete GSPs was groundwater levels. There wasn’t a plan to protect groundwater levels, at least not enough to please DWR. There was also the interconnection between surface and groundwater. DWR didn’t like how that was addressed.
Kincaid said an incomplete isn’t the end and offers a path to improving a plan before the adequate stamp of finality potentially opens a flood gate of litigation. She said these reviews give some look at a how DWR is approaching GSPs. Anything less than adequate triggers a 180-day window to correct and resubmit the plan. The Kern Subbasin is one of the more complicated plans. DWR has until the end of this year to finish its reviews.
Poire said if anyone is paying attention to the CV Salts program knows nitrate management is coming to Kern County next year. The Central Valley Salts program was started to address the buildup of salts in the soil. Those efforts have been hijacked by concerns regarding nitrates in groundwater that could make its way into drinking water. Nitrate is an important component for plant growth and occurs naturally. It’s added to crops as fertilizer and is a product of manure. It is part of how plants and animals coexist symbiotically in nature. We exhale CO2, plants convert CO2 through photosynthesis creating oxygen that we breathe. Animals ingest food, create nitrogen as a waste product and plants utilize nitrates as nutrients for their growth. The cycle is as planned before the creation of Earth. Also, Widespread Panic isn’t just a jam band out of Georgia, it’s also the message that only government can save us from ourselves. Who benefits from this? You don’t see the elites going without. There was a law firm spreading the news about groundwater contamination causing “blue baby” syndrome. If there has ever been a case of blue baby syndrome in California due to groundwater I’ve never heard of it. If you have, please let me know.
Hearn said salt and nitrate control applies to and is funded by anyone or any group with a waste discharge permit. She said most folks will have to opt to pay into the studies as they can’t meet the minimum standards. There will be Priority One and Two Subbasins. Forty-five parts per million nitrate is the difference.
Everyone will have to participate in the nitrate program which will have a very extensive public outreach component. It also has the added goose of all-inclusive management zones. The requirements closely follow SGMA with defined boundaries within subbasins and GSP like plans with solutions. It sounds like the ideal job security for bureaucrats and consultants. Kern County’s Valley portion has been divided into the Poso, Westside South and Kern River areas.
Hearn showed some of the data attached to the Chowchilla, Kaweah, Modesto, Turlock, Kings and Tule Subbasins. There were charts showing number of wells and people impacted, the replacement water targets and other such figures.
She said the City of Fresno tried to skinny out and ended up paying as much on studies trying to prove it wasn’t a viable cause of nitrates as it would have had it just participated in the program. Kincaid asked Hearn how the participants are organizing. Hearns said they are forming along the Irrigated Lands coalitions and trade groups. She said having a partnership is most likely the only way to get through this without a bottomless funding source. How is this different from taxation? The cost of nitrates is now going on top of SGMA costs. The goal is great – they want everyone who drinks water in the San Joaquin Valley to have clean water.
Poire said the native water study is a work in progress and she hopes to have some firmer news by the end of summer when the latest proposed grant money can start flowing. She also said the data management system has some goals as well. The member managers should be able to upload seasonal data and send it to DWR by July 1st. This will be expanded to include public access in October.
Waterhouse invited the directors to speak up and no one did. That was that and the meeting went into closed session at 8:47am. Not a bad length of a meeting.
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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.
Staff: Patty Poire – Executive Director, Valerie Kincade – Attorney, Marinelle Duarosan – Treasurer
The Kern Groundwater Authority membership:
Chairman: Dan Waterhouse.
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