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Kern Groundwater Authority GSA April 26, 2023

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Photo: Kern River with water in it -DAW

By Don A. Wright

The Kern Groundwater Authority Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its Wednesday, April 26, 2023 board meeting at its secret underground lair somewhere in Bakersfield, I thought most likely a law office but it turns out they’re at the new Kern County Farm Bureau offices, and online with Zoom. Zoom meetings are a wonderful way to preserve the environment, public transparency and the balance on my gasoline expenses. If all meetings were Zoomed I wouldn’t have to get dressed most days. Not that that’s a career goal. Today’s agenda looks pretty straight ahead.

While we’re waiting for the meeting to start I’ll share with you; yesterday afternoon I got to meet Westlands Water District’s new General Manager Allison Febbo. That’s Febbo, two b’s; not Feboo or Freebo or any of the other ways I’ve misspelled her name. She told me its Italian. She’s a pleasant lady who presented herself as poised enough to take on the task a new position with a relatively new board. We wish her success and look forward to seeing how things go. Fortunately she gets to start her new job with a 100 percent South of the Delta Central Valley Project allocation.

The Meeting

The meeting non-started at 8:00am with a lack of a quorum. Executive Director Patty Poire talked online with Director Eric Averett and he agreed to come to the meeting in person so action items could be voted on. Chairman Dan Waterhouse lead a flag salute and then introduced Kristin Pattack from Quad Knopf Engineering as the new point of contact for the Kern Subbasin. Each subbasin must have only one point of contact for DWR to deal with.Conterra

Attorney’s Report

The always excellent Valerie Kincaid reported UC Berkeley just issued a report on dealing with water scarcity in California that tracks with threatening legislation. This report states all water rights should be under control of the State Water Resources Control Board and all water should be subject to curtailment at any time for any reason. Kincaid said there is more opposition than usual to AB 460 and AB 1337 and it is not just ag water fighting.

The State Board held a meeting earlier this month and dealt with its roll in Groundwater Sustainability Plans that have been deemed inadequate. The Kern Subbasin is in that category. Kincaid said staff told the board it doesn’t have the bandwidth to handle all the reviews. There were five metrics mentioned in how to prioritize the subbasins: overdraft, coordination and three others I didn’t catch. The Kern Subbasin is the state leader in overdraft and has some coordination issues but on the other side Kern is doing OK with drinking water and subsidence.

Kincaid said staff said this is not statutorily required by the State Board and she said the good ranking should be included in prioritizing. She said getting the State Board more info on what Kern is doing well is a good idea. It was noted State Board staff didn’t sound ready to start with probation anytime soon. She said it sounded like the Board members didn’t have a clear idea about what data subbasins can and cannot provide.Technoflo

Executive Director’s Report

Poire had to skip around on the agenda to avoid a vote. She spoke about the annual SGMA report as the source of the State Board’s data information about subsidence and other metrics. Poire stressed the KGA members have a draft of the report for review well before the state gets its nose and nuts in the middle of it.

Poire said the KGA has a contract with Aqualogix to review the reports. There is a section on domestic wells and Kern is doing better than the other subbasins. On a per acre basis KGA’s overdraft isn’t in the top 10. But in the amount of acre feet pumped it is a big number. Waterhouse noted this is because of the large amount of water banking taking place in Kern. Poire said the data being submitted to DWR is being analyzed by the state. She said the amount of dry wells is small due to banking. It will be up to the KGA to be sure the State Board is aware of the apples to apples. Kincaid said it is important for the State Board to understand what water banking is and how the practice impacts the data.

One of the directors asked who is tracking the cause of dry wells, whether its water levels or pump failures or other causes. Poire said she works with Self Help Enterprises to investigate these matters.Lidco Inc.

Averett arrived and Poire led the board through the KGA annual report. She said when the KGA submitted its amended GSP it stated if there is a five percent impact on domestic and agricultural wells there will be mitigation. She said the North Kern WD and the Shafter Wasco ID have been following through. They did what they said they’d do in the plan.

Action Items

The board approved the minutes and Marinelle Duarosan’s treasurer’s report. That led to a discussion on what retention amounts grants can be accounted for in the budget. Often grants awards are not given when they are needed. There’s a lag time that can impact the bookkeeping, if I understood correctly.

Next was a look at pumping exceedances by members report. Poire asked each member with exceedances address this issue. West Kern was first and its response was this was a deep well and in the middle of the oil fields and had no impact on water quality or productivity. It was said this year’s report will be much different and better. The Westside Group was next and it said there have been some discrepancies from the initial report and the documented results but they are not allowed to go back and modify the inputs for the reports at this later time. It sounded like the exceedances have all been addressed.

The next item was amending the GSP. Waterhouse asked for Kincaid to comment. She said this requires a CEQA change and invite comments from cities and counties in the boundaries. She said this shouldn’t be controversial. She said the 90-day window won’t start until letters are sent out. The GSP will have to be amended since it was deemed inadequate. The meeting bogged down here with concerns about what amendments and that was not the point. The point was to clear the path of red-tape so when the amendments are ready than can be adopted in a timely manner. Waterhouse said he wants the board procedurally ready to move when it needs to. Kincaid added it is the same letter as was sent before when amendments came up in the past. The board agreed.

GEI Engineers have a task order (#23-01 if you’re keeping track) it wants approved. Poire said the KGA asked GEI to change the methodology on monitoring wells tracking and that required a technical document that cost $18,650. The board approved.

The last action item was approval of a consultant for plan review. When the GSP was deemed inadequate the board asked Poire to find an outside of the area consultant to review its GSP. She said Kincaid introduced her to David’s Engineering. David’s submitted a proposal, good for them because it was tough to get someone to look over plans from Kern County. There is a lot of demand for plan review.

New Biz, Correspondence & Closed Session

There were two matters of potential litigation mentioned on the agenda for closed session and the public part of the meeting ended sometime after 9:32pm.

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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:

Chair Dan Waterhouse – Semitropic WSD, Vice Chair Brandon Morris – Southern San Joaquin MUD, John Gaugel – Cawelo WD, Royce Fast – Kern County WA, Andrew Pandol – Kern Tulare WD, Kim Brown – Kern Water Bank Authority, Kevin Andrew – North Kern WSD, Gary Unruh – Rosedale Rio Bravo WSD, Randy Bloemhof – Shafter Wasco ID, Gary Morris – West Kern WD & Rob Goff – Westside District Water Authority.

DWR Listing: Basin San Joaquin, Sub Basin Kern 5-022.14