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Kaweah Subbasin Coordination, September 27, 2023

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By Don A. Wright

The three Groundwater Sustainability Agencies that make up the Kaweah Subbasin; the Eastern Kaweah, the Greater Kaweah and the Mid Kaweah GSAs met at the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District headquarters in Farmersville on Wednesday, September 27, 2023. This meeting is on the heels of a somewhat raucous meeting of yesterday’s GKGSA meeting where allocations for 2024 were set.

Only I find out today, the vote wasn’t accurate. There were just eight members of the board present at the meeting. The vote to set the groundwater pumping allocations was three yes and four no votes. Chairman Don Mills voted yes and it was counted as a passing tie breaker. There will be a redo on that one obviously. I thought something smelled a bit funny but the audio wasn’t clean yesterday. I do appreciate saving more than $5 per gallon on gas by attending online but there is a downside. It’s often more difficult to hear clearly and of course you don’t get the interaction with others that help round out the experience.

The Meeting of the Local Working Group

Chairman Mike Hagman started the meeting at 9:00am and introduced two ladies from the Resource Conservation District, Teri Van Huss and Lurana Strong. They gave a history of the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service that has been around since at least the dust bowl. The next thing I know Wendy Rash from the USDA spoke about groundwater. Ms. Rash and I sat together at the recent Public Policy Institute of California presentation on downsizing ag in light of SGMA at Fresno State University.Technoflo

Rash said she has found growers are excited, willing and motivated to work toward increased recharge. She said they are working with Tulare Irrigation District to move water and are also working with Madera ID and Fresno ID. This is a pilot program she hopes toLidco Inc. see accepted for statewide implementation. She also works with the EQIP grant if I heard correctly. Someone needed to mute their phone or stop rustling paper right by the microphones. Engineer Blair Blane of NRCS also spoke about the availability of grants.

Hagman is also Executive Director of the Eastern Kaweah GSA and General Manager of Lindmore ID. Aaron Fukuda was present and he’s Executive Director of the Mid Kaweah GSA and GM of Tulare ID. Both of them explained there are very different needs and methods being pursued to achieve sustainability.
The Other Meeting the Kaweah Subbasin Management Team

The meeting began at 9:34am and for public comment Geoff Vanden Heuvel said in light of yesterday’s meeting it is going to be much better to work together. He said it sounded like no Tier Two water was used last year. TID said yesterday it has recharged more than 100,000 a/f. Vanden Heuvel suggested TID offer this water for sale to Greater Kaweah GSA. Hagman said the downside is someone has a name on that water. Fukuda said putting the numbers on the table is going to help move down the path forward.

Vanden Heuvel is with the Milk Producers Council and follows SGMA closely. He cited some figures from 2022/2023 saying under Tier One .83 a/f was allocated for pumping and Tier Two received 1.04 a/f. A total of 1.84 a/f times 161,000 irrigated acres equals 301,257 a/f of allocated overdraft. About 35,000 acres of 161k is groundwater only. It was said at yesterday’s meeting very little if any Tier Two water was pumped meaning 167,544 a/f of the overdraft allocation wasn’t used. Fukuda said TID recharged 150,000 a/f this year plus what was recharged by growers in the district. Vanden Heuvel suggested TID sell some of its recharge water to GKGSA and GKGSA retire the 2022-23 Tier Two allocation.

After that whoever was Caller 02 on the online portion of the meeting made so much noise those of us online really couldn’t hear what was being said. It’s easy to forget to mute. I’ve probably done so myself a time or two but man oh man it ruins a meeting for others. I missed the entire discussion on what’s going on with the State Board’s approach to the Groundwater Sustainability Plan revisions. That was some information I very much would like to have heard and lack of common curtesy prevented that from happening. The folks in the room couldn’t hear the interference so I strongly suggest whoever is appointed to monitor the online portion of the meeting mute everyone and unmute only when someone raises their online emoji hand.


Fukuda reported Mid Kaweah is getting started on developing a water marketing plan with grant money. TID also was able to purchase some new survey equipment and is hopeful to get a new federally funded well monitoring system.

GKGSA GM Mark Larsen, I believe reported there are three pilot studies showing where the natural recharge is taking place at the Sequoia Riverlands Trust. The water is just disappearing underground. There’s some sandy soil in that area. There are also plans for a Delta View recharge plan. Larsen was GM of the Kaweah Delta WCD for a long time and KDWCD has been very proactive with recharge projects. They like to stack up the benefits and some of the projects have been gaining notice statewide. Good for them. He also said GKGSA and MKGSA have a land fallowing project funding in place and there are folks signing up.

GSA News

Hagman, Larsen and Fukuda all reported technical consultants are helping with GSP revisions. Of course, it is important to determine the cause of overdraft in detail. Now that DWR and the State Board have put domestic well mitigation on the backs of the GSAs there is much more incentive to work to keep them whole. There was some talk about homeowners having to save up to help pay for refurbishing of old wells.

Hagman said no matter what anyone else tells you Lindmore ID was the first district to divert water from the Friant Kern Canal. Its groundwater levels have consistently risen until the Central Valley Project deliveries were curtailed and drought started hitting hard in 2007. Without CVP supplies restored the area won’t bounce back from just natural precipitation. Ag and domestic wells have been impacted. He said folks ask why there isn’t more what I’d call kum-buy-ah taking place between the three GSAs. They have very different needs and supplies. Eastern Kaweah is up against the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Range. It’s squarely in the citrus belt and has fractured rock under parts. Mid Kaweah is on the Valley floor with clay layers under parts and you won’t find much citrus.

Fukuda said MKGSA recognizes the need for recharge and agrees with East Kaweah precipitation needs to be averaged and allocations need to be determined mid-summer to be of any help. Waiting until the early fall isn’t helpful. Also, MKGSA is looking at a flexible cap on pumping during wet years. I think he called it a dynamic cap that will be revealed next week.

Larsen said a redesigned website will soon be launched. He said it should be much more up to date with better information. Hallelujah. He said fallowing is a tool, not a silver bullet but it is in the tool kit.

Hagman said much of the natural recharge takes a decade or sometimes two or three decades to fully reach the groundwater level that could be counted. The underground flow is east to west and he found yesterday’s GKGSA actions disappointing. He said EKGSA is at a sustainable level and is dealing with reality. The other western GSAs in the subbasin are not helping and in fact harming the eastern side of the Kaweah Subbasin. He said EKGSA won’t be shy about telling the State Board this when the time comes.

Fukuda said he understands EKGSA is the canary in the coalmine. He said he understands the more water MKGSA and GKGSA can fill their underground the less the flow from EKGSA. He’s had growers take trees out of production to use the land for recharge.

There was some talk about the Governor recognizing California Department of Fish & Wildlife holding up projects designed to help with SGMA. I believe it was Vanden Heuvel saying this needs to be documented and a letter sent to CDFW Director Chuck Bonham and the Guv. Newsom has shown through emergency executive orders he’s aware of the problem but keeping him informed is necessary.

That sounded good to everyone including me. Hagman asked rhetorically who to send a letter to when the State Board behaves in an obstructive way.

It was also said there is a position paper coming out dealing with cover crops. And Hagman said his board is asking for the subbasin meetings to start taking place monthly. After that communal groan was entered into the minutes the meeting was adjourned at 11:12am.

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