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Kern Groundwater Authority GSA July 26, 2023

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By Don A. Wright

The Kern Groundwater Authority Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its board of directors meeting in Bakersfield on Wednesday, July 26, 2023. Bakersfield in the summer. I lived there for a couple of years when I was in grammar school. I remember it was just about as hot as anywhere else in the San Joaquin Valley. One of the reasons global warming doesn’t scare us Valley folk.

Water conservation wasn’t as big an issue in those days. We lived on St. Mary Street over by the bluffs. It’s a hilly part of an otherwise flat town. Water from lawn sprinklers would run down the gutters and algae would grow. It was slippery stuff. I wiped out on my Schwinn Sting Ray more than once. Many of my classmates had chipped teeth and I attributed that to slick gutters and bicycle mishaps. If anyone asks I have history with Kern County water issues.

The Meeting

Chairman Dan Waterhouse started things at 8:00am with a flag salute. There was one public comment by Geoff Vanden Heuvel, Milk Producers Council. He asked for a public roll call since there are lot of new faces and in general a lineup change in the membership. I didn’t recognize half the folks there and I’m not quite sure who’s still a member of the club and who isn’t.

Emily McCague of Self Help Enterprise announced on behalf of Tammy McVay was having trouble with getting online. But that was soon rectified. KGA Executive Director Patty Poire introduced McVay as Self Help Enterprise’s domestic well mitigation program. She is director of emergency services and things started with the last drought period. Bottled water and water tanks have been provided to families with dry wells. She said drilling a well is the last resort but if that must be done a thorough test for water quality is performed with continuing follow up testing and monitoring to meet National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) standards. A big thank you to Ms. McCague for looking that up for me. A good deal of time is spent deciphering initials, anagrams, acrostics, acronyms, abbreviations and jargon in the water world.Technoflo

McVay said the family who gets a new well has to go through a 10-week training course including hydrology and well maintenance. They also have to establish a bank account to ensure they will have the funds to keep the new well maintained. She said when a family calls in with a dry well someone from Self Help interviews the folks involved and does an assessment of the situation.

McCague said if the well is dead the priority is to hook up the property with a municipal line or make sure if there is a line planned for the area the property will be included. Sometimes there’s the need for a pump repair or replacement. If the well is completely dead Self Help will help the family get a $60,000 grant. McCague said they find the costs for a new well to run about $100 per foot.

McVay said they often find collapsed casings and opt for the less expensive treatment. She said due to state regulations this money isn’t available for flood impacts, only drought. How’s that grab you? She’s said they are working to bring common sense to this but for those harmed by flooding they are referred to the county they live in.

McCague said bottled and tank water service isn’t income dependent but new wells or refurbishment is based on income. About $67,000 annual household threshold. McVay said the deep wells in Kern County are not on the San Joaquin Valley floor but the high desert. A failed well in places like Indian Wells, Ridgecrest and the highlands southeast of Lake Isabella and around Edwards Airforce Base – this is where a 1,000 feet of drilling takes place.

Waterhouse asked if drillers in their program are subject to prevailing wage. McVay said Self Help is considered a lender in this case. They lend the money to the homeowners but pay the driller directly and then those funds become a grant and that’s how they get around prevailing wage.


The minutes were approved. And Poire gave the treasurer’s report. The KGA, like everyone, has had to spend money this past month. The board approved those expenditures. Poire also was able to disburse grant money as needed. More grant money showed up last week and that can be spent on Land IQ ground truthing.

Attorney Valerie Kincaid called it in and there was no report for open session. That’s too bad. I always learn interesting things from Kincaid. Most attorney reports are dry as toast. Kincaid generously provides context while maintaining professional decorum and client confidentiality. Good for her.

Exec Direct Report

Poire gave her report saying the exceedance policy needs to be beefed up for the annual SGMA report, so says the state. Increased investigations of impacts to wells near any wells that pumped beyond their allocation is the big requirement. The managers have reviewed this and vetted it. The board agreed. Director Kim Brown asked if this new criterion will be included in the revised Groundwater Sustainability Plan and Poire said that’s what the managers suggested. Three of the districts abstained on the vote. Kincaid said since these are not no votes the motion could pass but the abstentions need to be noted.

Next Poire told the board the Kern Water Bank wants to form its own GSA. The board agreed. North Kern Water Storage District has given notice it no longer wants to be thewww fiscal agent for the KGA. Poire said she is looking for approval for Andrea Hill, CPA to take on those duties for about $1,000 per month. Waterhouse said they’d hoped North Kern would stay on a little longer but they delivered six boxes of financial records last week. The board agreed to hire Hill.

This arrangement also prompted a new slate of approved signatories for the KGA bank accounts. Waterhouse said the signatories will have to visit the bank and give identification and such. He thought all board members should be signatories with two main ones freeing up the check writing. Poire will not be a signatory of course and I didn’t hear Kincaid. Two members will be responsible for signing checks. The checks will be waiting for them at the monthly board meeting which is a common arrangement. The board will still approve the expenses. Waterhouse, Brown and Director Royce Fast will be the main culprits if anything goes wrong.

Poire said KGA managers are still meeting on Fridays and working through the State Board’s letter dooming the GSP to revisions. Having one GSP without individual member chapters yet dealing with all the unique and specific areas has been proposed – if I understood. The plan under review had a two-tiered trigger for problems and the idea is to replace this with more monitoring wells. The managers want to include the exceedance policy and more closely work with Self Help on domestic wells. She reminded the board the GSP revision is on a tight schedule and the member home boards are being informed.

Vanden Heuvel asked if coordination with the other parts of the Kern Subbasin is taking place. Waterhouse said yes, that work is going on. Mitigation and other studies are ongoing and as there is more coordination taking place the results will be shared – if I understood.Lidco Inc. Getting the GSAs on the Kern Subbasin’s Valley floor coordinated is a task. If you recall Kern County decided at the last minute in 2017 to overlay all the GSAs because it feared losing control of land use. Then at the last second pulled out from that position. Kern County also declined to step up and deal with white areas not in a GSA. SGMA didn’t require a county to take over white areas but if a county didn’t serve as a backstop the state would step in and do so. The biggest motivator in SGMA is keeping the state out as best as possible.

Closed Session

A couple of online folks asked about a letter they wanted access to and it wasn’t clear what they were talking about. It turned out to be the boilerplate the state requires GSAs to send their respective counties announcing changes to the GSPs, should any be taking place. With that the meeting went into closed session for more exciting discussions of lawsuits, personnel matters and real property negotiations as allowed under the Brown Act. And that’s what happened.

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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

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