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East Kaweah GSA Technical Committee May 31, 2018

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The East Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its technical advisory committee on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at the Visalia offices of Provost & Pritchard. Chairman Tim Gobler, Wutchumna Water Company called the meeting to order at the relatively civilized time of 10:00 am. After self-introductions there were no public comment except for Michael Hagman, Executive officer of EKGSA and GM of Lindmore Irrigation District. Hagman asked to reopen public comment later in the meeting when some running late shows up. The minutes were then approved.

Hagman reported a hiccup in the way the Kaweah Sub Basin management team and Sub Basin TAC are organized. I didn’t fully understand the issue but the effort was to prevent violations of the Brown Act. So, Gobler asked if this needs to go to the full board and Hagman said the management team will take care of that.

Next Matt Klinchuch, P&P presented the progress being made with the giant flying magnet program, also known as Skytemp. I thought the Terminator had come back as a good guy and destroyed it but it’s resurrected as a technique to determine soil types by flying a giant magnet hooked up to computers over the area.

       Attorney Ravi Patel gave a legal look at how to account for seepage. Under SGMA every drop counts and channel lose is often more than a drop. In 1939 there was a ruling in the Stevens v. Oakdale Irrigation District case stating if someone spent money to import water they should get the benefits of seepage. SGMA doesn’t allow any taking of water rights. Patel said a GSP is a balancing act of water rights, economic impact, regulatory feasibility and undesirable results as listed in SGMA. He said defining if a molecule of water is imported or native supply is the first step. If the water follows a stream and percolates it is part of native supply. If the water is diverted for human use it is no longer part of the native supply. But if the water is diverted under riparian rights the amount that percolates becomes part of the native supply.

Appropriative water from another basin that could never have ended up in the Kaweah Sub Basin naturally, will be considered non-native supply. The biggest example is Central Valley Project deliveries on the Friant Kern Canal. Patel said point of delivery will decide 80 percent of who owns the water.

Now, salvaged water. Its defined as water behind a dam released at a time different than it would have been released. If there was no dam on the river there is a certain amount of lose that will be different than if it was released by the dam. Mark Larsen, GM Kaweah Delta WSD said on the Kaweah River, since the water has been stored instead of having seasonal runoff that would have flowed to the Tulare Lake and been lost to this area. Since there is a dam the water can be released “in time” for use and that is salvaged water that would have been lost to the sub basin absent man made diversions.

Hagman said this can lead to a huge argument but it’s better to have it now. Paul Hendrix, Executive Officer Mid Kaweah GSA said Tulare ID had to work out “comingling” in the Friant contracts. The US Bureau of Reclamation was trying to work out ownership of seepage back then. Gobler asked Hagman how he’d like to go forward. Hagman said he would like the technical committee to prepare questions for Patel. Patel said the question for him is how to keep the GSA out of trouble. The water needs to be defined and the firm of GEI came up with a memo trying to take into account all these variables.

Joe Ferrara, Chairman EKGSA asked who takes the channel lose, the farmer or the contracting district. Tom Weddle, GM Ivanhoe & Exeter IDs said the grower takes the loss for the most part but Patel said it also depends on how the contract was written and district policy. Weddle said Lakeside Water ID is the furthest downstream form the dam. If they chose to take water when no one else was running they could lose 60 percent of their water. If they take water with everyone else the channel lose will be less severe. If that helps.

Patel said he wants the TAC to give him its questions and concerns. Hagman said there are serious impacts to his district and EKGSA. He said the dam was built for flood control as well as storage. It was paid for by the growers as well and he’ll have to take this to his board. Attorney Alex Peltzer suggested this issue needs to be further worked out before taking this to a head. Peltzer said if some of this water isn’t native supply whose supply is it. If salvaged water isn’t native who gets the water may surprise everyone. Peltzer advocated working out the technical and the legal work in tandem before getting too worked up.

Patel said up to this point there has been no groundwater regulations in non-adjudicated basins. He thinks the court will recognize this is new times. Aaron Bock, Tulare County said the county’s position is to establish the volume of water and where seepage takes place before legal matters come to play. KDWCD developed the Water Resources Investigation that gives a pretty good look at what is happening in the sub basin. Hagman said seepage has been defined by the WRI at 300,000 a/f per year. I believe that was the figure. Bock wasn’t so sure this information is complete for the white areas the county represents. Hagman said a portion of the WRI covers the Kaweah Sub Basin. He also said he appreciates the work Patel has done and is willing to work this out.  

During this discussion there were many other opinions brought forth. Some were out of context initially making them difficult to incorporate in this or possibly any in depth look at the enactment of a vague law’s engineering and legal theories. There were many questions raised and few answered today, but that was I believe the goal. The most fundamental way to get answers is ask the right questions. Craig Wallace, GM Lindsay-Strathmore ID suggested getting some numbers together to send to the home boards for their legal counsel can run through it before coming back to the EKGSA board. Landowner Karen Yohannes asked if the other two GSAs in the sub basin are at the same point and the answer is yes. Klinchuch the TAC is getting close to some workable, non-fake news, ballpark figures to work with. Hagman suggested getting all the GSA legal counsel together with the board and everyone else walk out the room. Brown Act anyone? But, the sentiment is in the right place. Gobler got ahold of things; he pointed out it’s almost noon and these questions will require more technical data. Patel was willing to present this to the other counsel because he feels its well vetted. The committee agreed.

Next was potential projects. Hagman said some of the recharge wells will be installed tomorrow.

Finally, the mystery late arriving public commenter was Peltzer. He wanted to talk about a hard rock well exemption policy. There is an area near the foothills with little to no alluvial conditions. He’d like to see the GSP regulation exempt these wells. He had helpfully drafted a simple, 22 bullet pointed, one page document detailing his proposal. It was divided: introduction, grounds for policy, policy details and conclusion. Some highlights – a well owner will have to prove the well is hard rock and not be exported. Sounds good to me. He asked the GSAs to please give it a look and consider the proposals merits. Everyone found that reasonable and it will be on the agenda for the next meeting. Gobler said it’s time for the GSP schedule to become part of every meeting and folks agreed. The next meeting is scheduled for July 6th at 10:00 am.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright   No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of DAW.

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