The Kern Groundwater Authority Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its board of directors meeting somewhere but the public presentation was on Zoom. That’s fine, the KGA meetings were always crowded as they couldn’t find a room in Bakersfield big enough to hold everyone. While we’re on the subject of Bakersfield and Kern County I received an interesting messages from the Kern Farm Bureau yesterday. The state government of California is trying to implement the infamous 30×30 plan. This is where the government condemns 30 percent of the land and coastline and sets it aside as a nature preserve by the year 2030. Patty Poire is the President of the Kern Farm Bureau as well as Executive Officer of the KGA. Good for the Kern Farm Bureau for having the courage to speak up when bad things are being planned. It’s a shame more media-outlets don’t cover this type of un-American power grab by the government.
Chairman Dan Waterhouse called the meeting to order at 8:00am and unfortunately the state government is still playing with the Brown Act instead of updating it for the 21st Century. All the members had to vote on adopting a resolution to allow the meeting to be broadcast by Zoom with some directors attending remotely. More about that someday. The resolution passed and was followed by a flag salute that included the phrase, “under God” and that was a good thing.
Next North Kern’s Marinelle Duarosan gave the treasurer and financial reports. The attorney report was given by Valerie Kincade. Ms. Kincade always gives good reports. She gives detail but in a manner even a cave man can understand. Kincade spoke about the California Water Commission’s report on groundwater trading. That generated a lot of response. She said allocations and trading are of course two different issues. If I understood correctly the CWC said trading should be pretty much a local issue. A draft comment was drawn up and the board was asked to approve sending it to the CWC. The board agreed with adopting the draft.
Next Kincade spoke about the Groundwater Sustainability Plan revisions. She said a group of attorneys representing GSPs met and discussed ways to address updates and amendments. Again there is a letter to be sent to all the KGA members regarding the GSP updates. This was approved. Someone asked if there are examples from other GSAs and Kincade said there are other letters similar to this developed by the attorneys.
What is a Right?
The last part of the attorney report was about efforts by the Planning & Conservation League report on updating California water law in response to climate change. There were 11 recommendations and the lack of input from water rights holders was glaring. It addressed raising funds to help NGOs and tribes to get water rights. It will expand the State Board to include a social justice seat. It will give authority to the Board to adjudicate streams on its own authority. Kincade listed several other recommendations devoid of the concept of rights being a right and not a government privilege. Kincade said she doesn’t know where it goes from here but possibly to the legislature. There is a lot of talk by so called environmentalists and “social” justice about the archaic water right laws in the state. Again, there was no mention of the actual water rights holders in this P&CL report. I asked if this ties in with the 30×30 plan and Kincade said while there is some overlap 30×30 has more defined goals. Wouldn’t it be interesting for landowners to gather and develop 11 recommendations for dealing with NGOs?
Ex O Report
Poire gave her report saying there was a well-attended meeting earlier this month with the KGA leadership and DWR to discuss the GSP. There is a direction for the basin to start following being formed to develop these responses. The Kern Subbasin is the largest in area in the state. There is not a one size fits all fix. Poire said it is very important to have landowners in the room and their input. If you didn’t know DWR deemed the KGA GSP incomplete. This is not an exclusive club as most GSPs were deemed incomplete. The deadline for KGA to submit its response to DWR is June 27 and Poire wants to have at least a month of review before this.
I believe it was Director Royce Fast who advocated for a timeline to be developed immediately so all concerned can be aware of their stance. Fast added he thought the meeting with DWR was an example of the managers “running towards the hard stuff” instead of away.
Waterhouse said the DWR meeting was fruitful. DWR told the KGA there is progress being made. One of the big issues throughout the GSP reviews is better coordination between the participants. Most subbasins have more than one GSA but under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act only one GSP per subbasin is allowed. That forces diverse interests to reach agreements and for the most part this has happened. However, this is not only the first time a subbasin has had to write a GSP it is also the first time DWR has had to review a GSP. There’s a lot of new territory being covered and judging by the conversations I’m hearing the cooperation between the GSAs and DWR is good. Despite efforts by some this well has not be poisoned yet. Good for them.
Poire said not all beneficial uses are the same in the Kern Subbasin. For example the groundwater quality on the westside is very different than the eastside and there is far less domestic use. It sounded like Dan Bartel who said there is still an amount of data needed to make well informed technical decisions on a range of matters, subsidence for one. Kincade said the language in the analysis is key to the DWR determinations, whether good or bad. Someone asked Kincade if the timeline given the GSAs is realistic. She said she certainly wouldn’t advocate for being late. She said to get things perfect will take longer but you can’t wait until things are perfect. She said she believes DWR understands this and is willing to work together. It seems the GSAs have a little more to work with now than in 2018 when many of the plans were first conceptualized. Measurable Thresholds are going to have to be educated guesses and it is excruciating for an engineer to not be able to give a strong technical reason behind a decision. But the goal is to get out of any probationary situation. No one wants the State Water Resources out of Control Board to step in.
Next Poire gave an update on grant applications and she’ll be sending out drafts of the apps to the managers. She apologized for adding to their workload but it’s important for the wording to be correct as possible. It sounded like some of the needed input has been lagging. I won’t mention which engineering firm was at question.
The annual SGMA report is due April 1st and Poire has started it and is gathering the necessary information and hopes to have a draft by next month. The last part of her report was accomplishments and a forward work plan which was in the packet and she didn’t read it out loud as the room was full of adults who know how to read.
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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:
Chairman: Dan Waterhouse.
Arvin-Edison Water Storage District, Cawelo Water District, City of Shafter, Kern County Water Agency, Kern-Tulare Water District, Kern Water Bank Authority, North Kern Water Storage District, Olcese Water District, Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District, Semitropic Water Storage District, Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District, Southern San Joaquin Municipal Utility District, Tejon-Castaic Water District, West Kern Water District, Westside District Water Authority & Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Water Storage District
DWR Listing: Basin San Joaquin, Sub Basin Kern 5-022.14