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Kern Groundwater Authority GSA August 23, 2023



By Don A. Wright

The Kern Groundwater Authority Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its Wednesday, August 23, 2023 board of directors meeting in Bakersfield and on Zoom. Under the attorney’s report there is an item about the federal Environmental Protection Agency investigating the State Water Resources Control Board. That’s all it says but I know from reading other sources this is the woke machine feeding on itself and it is very wrong. I’ve said it before, the State Board is ours to kick around, having a federal agency do the bidding of radical NGOs isn’t going to help anyone of any color except for perhaps better grant funding for the folks who call themselves “justice” warriors. Let’s see what the KGA attorney, with an actual law school education, has to say.

The Meeting

Things kicked off when Chairman Dan Waterhouse called things to order at 8:00am with self-introductions of the board, which is smaller than it used to be as things have shook up some. We all saluted the flag of the greatest nation on earth and that felt good and the right thing to do for a government meeting. There were no public comments.

Executive Director Patty Poire introduced Larry Rodriguez of GSI Engineering saying the managers have been meeting in response to DWR deeming the Kern Subbasin’s GSP inadequate. Rodriguez gave an update on what’s being done about this.

Improving the GSP

Rodriguez said he’ll give the Sustainable Management Criteria the technical working group (TWG sounds like twig) is working on. This group works under the direction of the Coordination Committee. Minimum thresholds, measurable objectives and better definitions of undesirable results are the focus. The Minimum thresholds are being determined in light of three figures; recent five-year drought low with trends, recent drought low without and a South of Kern River algorithm through fall of 2022.

The measurable objectives started without much data and the focus has been to fill that data gap. Rodriguez said the time from fall of 2014 to fall of 2020 was looked at. Undesirable results are being defined as 25 percent or more of monitored sites over two consecutive years exceeding the minimum thresholds and more than 15 drinking water wells dry up in one year.

Rodriguez said this is a proposal provided to the coordination committee saying it is not being presented as a one size fits all. Tom Watson called in and was critical of capping wells along the California Aqueduct, blaming subsidence on DWR and the oilfields. He also said this program shouldn’t be presented as a Semitropic Hybrid approach but a subbasin wide approach. He also reminded everyone SGMA demands completion in 2040, not in five years.Technoflo

Rodriguez said this approach is a hybrid that works for Semitropic because the basin wide methods previously presented didn’t work for Semitropic. He said this approach was designed to include all the districts. The Semitropic Hybrid, if I understood, will establish MO based on the level of overdraft within each district and the glidepath needed, establish MTs based on the historic level of flexibility needed and establish a consistent methodology.

The Kern Subbasin has an overdraft exceeding 250,000 a/f annually. Rodriguez said every GSA has an overdraft. Depending on the amount of overdraft a district can determine a MO. GSAs with overdrafts up to 4,999 a/f would use the recent drought low, 5,000 to 34,999 a/f annually would use the recent drought with a five year trend and over 35,000 a/f (only Semitropic meets this criteria) would use the 10-year trend. He acknowledges Semitropic has a deeper hole to dig out of but this would put it on the path to meet SGMA requirements on time.

There was some talk about water quality and specifically arsenic in domestic wells under this plan. There was also talk about how setting lower thresholds in Semitropic would cause the neighboring areas to have that much more difficulty in reaching their MO’s. Rodriguez said there are groundwater level gradients near the Kern River that have stayed level despite pumping near them. I guess he was making an analogy about recharge acting as a groundwater source similar to the Kern River.Lidco Inc.

Semitropic General Manager Jason Gianquinto said all the banking projects don’t have overdraft. He said Semitropic will eventually achieve sustainability with banking and operating for farming. But it will take longer since Semitropic has a deeper hole to dig out of. I’m not sure he settled anyone’s question.

And, the question was, which methodology should Semitropic use that would be acceptable to the subbasin. My sense is folks weren’t zippy with Semitropic taking the longer, 10-year trend to meeting its measurable objectives. Rodriguez said one reason the GSP was dinged was its inconsistent methodology. This hybrid is an attempt to unify this. The SOKR method was the most promising and the TWG was tasked with creating a hybrid that worked for everyone. That has to be presented on August 29th to the Coordination Committee and there is an early September meeting with DWR to go over the proposed changes to the GSP.

Rodriguez said finding a unified methodology is going to be key to getting DWR to approve the plan. He said the presentation to the Coordination Committee is going to be the next step. He said everyone in the basin is going to overdraft before achieving sustainability. Rob Goff said there must be some flexibility and in general the west side of the subbasin supported the hybrid, if I understood.*

Action Items

There was a correction to the July minutes listing Goff as present when in fact he was floating on river fishing in Idaho.

Poire gave the treasurer’s report since North Kern WD is no longer providing those services. Poire said they had to open new accounts and get that all straightened out. She had other financial news to share and the board approved her report. Good for her. She also said there has to be a cash call that will take the members to the end of the year.

Attorney Report    

            Valarie Kincaid reported the State Board approved 10 more GSPs late in July. That leaves 43 subbasins left to have their GSP decided by the end of the year. That’s a lot of work for the State Board staff.

Kincaid said the EPA took action on a complaint filed last year about the Bay Delta Plan. The complaint was filed against the State Board by tribes and a Delta group in Stockton complaining they were cut out in the Bay Delta Plan. And they filed under civil rights. The EPA sent the State Board a notice they are under investigation. We should know more by early September.

Ex O Report

Poire said one of the components impacting a $7.6 million grant for subbasin monitoring including Land IQ is to put subsidence monitoring along the Friant Kern Canal at a location on the Kimberlina Road. The Friant Water Authority wants the US Geological Service to administer this project. The USGS has worked on a very similar project with the US Bureau of Reclamation. This required the board approval and it did so.

The next item was related and dealt with the property owned by the Bureau. The USGS has to get a license to build the monitoring station and that required the board to approve and it did so once again.

Some Kind of Contract

Then there was an item about a contract with Quad Knopf Engineering. Not sure how but Buena Vista WSD was going to pay for. But the contract was terminated. That leaves about $19,000 leftover. Poire asked the board to approve refunding the money and then requesting additional funds from the State. Somehow or other there was a woman going to bill some hours against this, perhaps? I have to admit I didn’t understand this item at all. But Waterhouse said to refund the money and ask for a more detailed proposal would be a proper response. Whoever this woman is, she was charging travel time, every time she left her office to drive to Quad Knopf’s office and evidently that added up quick.

Kincaid made some helpful suggestions that I didn’t understand. Director Kim Brown asked if the KGA could approve a limited engagement pending Kincaid’s review and then bringing this back after the coordination committee looked it over, I think she said. I give up. If you want to know what’s going on call the KGA.

Kincaid said there isn’t a motion needed but direction to keep the accounting clear would be a good move. I did find out the contract was for someone to provide a point of contact for DWR. SGMA only allows one per subbasin and evidently the Kern Subbasin hired a special person to be this point of contact.

Next Poire reported there was a subbasin study update given recently. She said this will prove very valuable for future modeling throughout the subbasin, which has a diverse amount of geology. Included was an estimate of how much groundwater may be flowing north, out of the subbasin.

Closed Session

At about 9:40am Waterhouse called the open session to a close and called the closed session to an open. That was that. Go be good to yourselves and others.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide his clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights does not serve as a guarantor of the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and specifically disclaims any and all responsibility for information that is not accurate, up-to-date, or complete.  Waterwrights’ clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from Waterwrights entirely at their own risk. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not represent any advertisers or third parties.

*Sometimes I think I understand only to find out later I was 180 degrees off. Especially in Kern County. I once wrote that the City of Lamont owed the feds a quarter of a billion dollars or some such. Got that one wrong. That’s why I appreciate input from readers. No one wants to go down in history as the biggest donut to ever write about water.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2023 by

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, Some local CPA – Treasurer

The Kern Groundwater Authority membership:

Chair Dan Waterhouse – Semitropic WSD, Royce Fast – Kern County WA, Andrew Pandol – Kern Tulare WD, Kim Brown – Kern Water Bank Authority, Gary Morris – West Kern WD & Rob Goff – Westside District Water Authority.

Brandon Morris – Southern San Joaquin MUD, John Gaugel – Cawelo WD, Kevin Andrew – North Kern WSD, Gary Unruh – Rosedale Rio Bravo WSD, Randy Bloemhof – Shafter Wasco ID

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


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