The East Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its board of directors on Monday, December 3, 2018 at the Exeter Museum in Exeter of all places. The meeting space is upstairs in what I think used to be the jail. There are more than 20-seats at the three tables arranged like a horseshoe and another maybe 40 for the public. There is a good deal of space in the middle of the room in the center of the horseshoe. Everywhere else was pretty much standing room only. I exaggerate a little, but it is tight and that’s a good problem. If you come late and can’t find a seat you might want to blame it on Trilby Barton of Provost & Pritchard Engineering. She has been doing the public outreach for the EKGSA. Also, Karen Yohannes made fudge and those round cookies with the powered sugar on the outside. That could also account for the strong attendance.
Vice-Chairman Joe Ferrara opened the meeting at a little after 3:00pm as Chairman Ed Milanesio wasn’t able to attend today. We introduced ourselves, saluted the flag and the board approved the minutes. General Manager Michael Hagman, also GM of Lindmore Irrigation District gave the board a rundown of where the money is going. For instance; it costs $100 a pop to use the museum meeting space and the EKGSA is now using it for all its meetings – board and committee. The engineering firm GEI had a $200,000 increase in costs to complete the basin setting work. Hagman, who is also a pretty wolfy accountant himself, said the combination of grants, reserves and previous call for funds should be enough to cover 2019 and could even end up with $50,000 at the end of the year. So, no call for funds expected this year. Hagman also recommended the GSA put together an operating reserve fund for 30-days of spending. The board adopted that idea and the budget.
Committee reports were next and Ferrara chairs the Advisory Committee. He reported they worked through policy development and is in favor of the proposed Water Accounting Framework. Tim Gobler, engineer and representative for Wutchumna Water Company said the technical committee also worked on the WAF. Hagman said the Sub Basin Management Team has hunkered down and hopes to have some of the GSP ready for board review by next year.
Getting into the GSP
Hagman said the Sub Basin Setting is a big part of the GSP. He explained how water enters the Kaweah Sub Basin through precipitation, underground flows, snow melt and rain runoff. There is also “foreign” water imported by Friant and such. Porosity, how much water the soil can hold, is a big player in this area. EKGSA abuts the Sierra Nevada foothills where the fissured rock aquifer turns into an alluvial aquifer. There were some good words from Hagman regarding porosity. The greater the porosity the more water can be stored underground and the less impact pumping can exert a water-table level drop. The less the porosity the less water can be stored and pumping has a greater impact on water levels. The time period 1999 through 2017 was used for calibrating the models and all three of the GSAs in the Kaweah Sub Basin have agreed this is the proper time frame. EKGSA, Great Kaweah GSA and Mid Kaweah GSA.
Water Accounting Framework
Hagman then went over the WAF. It’s not an easy subject to grasp immediately for most folk, include me in that. All three GSAs have agreed to three titles in describing groundwater inflows:
Native – groundwater inflow derived from water developed in the sub basin, but not legally appropriated and is attributed to all basin users.
Appropriated/salvaged – groundwater inflow derived from surface water originating in the sub basin that is first legally “appropriated” by a person(s) is considered their supply.
Foreign – groundwater inflow derived from water imported into the sub basin (not originated in the sub basin) is considered the importer’s supply.
Yohannes commented on this asking how the frame work accounts for water that would have been present had there not been any dams. She also believes there are more questions on ownership of irrigation return flows. Hagman said that is the greater single input in the GSA; more than 50 percent. She said there has never been a question of ownership and that needs to be worked out. Gobler said GEI was tasked with coming up with return flow figures and no one in the room knew what that number is.
There’s a Story to Tell
However, the amount of overdraft is starting to become clearer and the rate is increasing faster since 2005 or so. With that in mind Hagman said there is no plan to take any harsh measures. He doesn’t want to run off all the 20-acre farmers. He also went through some of the frequently asked questions. One question is: will there be a water market and the answer is – no one knows at this time. The representative for white areas said he has been looking at what is happening in the export market. The California grower is losing any competitive edge and will soon find his markets taken over by others. He said if the farmers aren’t competitive internationally they just aren’t competitive and would be better to just shut it down. He realized he was preaching to the choir. Another Director said it might be time for all the GSAs in the Valley to hire a lobbyist. Milk Producers Council’s Geoff Vanden Heuvel said it’s time to get the legislature to fund a full blown economic study on SGMA’s impacts. Grower Alan Lombardi and Gobler pointed out SGMA is a by product of the CVPIA and San Joaquin River Restoration and such mismanagement of surface water.
Paul Hendrix is the GM of the Mid Kaweah GSA. He said the Kern sub basin hired an economist to do such a study. He said he has been in talks with the Mid Kaweah about doing the same. Hagman said this is something very beneficial and he will put an economic impact report. Vanden Heuvel pointed out the democrats are in power now and we have to work with them whether or not we voted for them. Ferrara thanked everyone for their input.
Barton spoke saying she’d like to reach out to the local politicians about getting together. She said there is a push by ag leaders throughout the state to put together a communication summit since ag isn’t getting the word out effectively. Very interesting. And that was that.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 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