The Kern Groundwater Authority Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its Board of Directors meeting online and in person in Bakersfield on Wednesday, November 15, 2023. This was fun as I had spent the night in Bakersfield so I got to attend in person. I’m not bragging but, OK maybe a little, but the fact remains they were happy to see me and I was happy to see them. I don’t want to name names and get anyone in trouble.
I was able to attend in person because I spent the night in Bakersfield. Did I tell you about the last time I spent the night in Bakersfield? I booked a room online at the Extended Stay America on California Avenue just east of Highway 99. Wow. I got there and was greeted by half a dozen beer drinkers sitting on the sidewalk wearing hobo Halloween costumes. The attention to detail was amazing but I remember thinking, “It’s not Halloween, what’s going on?”
The door to the lobby was locked and a note instructed me to use the white curtesy phone, which was a cheap plastic thing glued to the stucco wall. I called the office and the gal who answered told me they’d need an additional $100 deposit. I told her considering the company sitting outside her door I’d prefer to discuss financial matters in the lobby. She said there was no access to the lobby expect for employees. I asked her if the tattooed couple rooting through the trash dumpster were part of the maid staff. She said no. I told her that’s part of the reason I would either speak with her in the lobby or cancel my reservation. She said I’d have to pay either way since I booked online. I told her fine and got out of there since it was getting dark.
I filled out a Yelp recommending the Rescue Mission over the Extended Stay because at least the Rescue Mission would feed you. I ended up staying at a much nicer hotel on Rosedale but something in the elevator shaft caught fire just before midnight and they evacuated the place. The other lodgers and I stood around the parking lot until 2am. But the hotel staff gave us half off our room rate and free breakfast.
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Dan Waterhouse at 8:00am, but there wasn’t a quorum until less than 10-seconds after the call when Director Royce Fast walked in. We all saluted the flag and that felt good to do in person. There were no public comments and the minutes were approved.
Executive Director Patty Poire said the reason for the shorter than usual report was the accelerated time between meetings. She led the board through the details of incoming and outgoing money, which is pretty much what a financial report is all about. The cash call has been successful and she thinks there won’t have to be any more through the end of the year. The board agreed to pay its bills and to authorize Poire to send some grant money to the data management system cost.
Valerie Kincaid said the KGA GSA has prepared a draft comment to the State Board’s staff about the Tulare Lake Subbasin probation and what a hearing is all about. She said there are voids in the information about the procedure and this letter is a request for specifics. The hearings are not well defined and Kincaid said the procedure should include how to get out of probation and the state has not been forthcoming on how a GSA in probation can get out. She said, “You have to understand the rules before playing the game.”
The staff letter states a GSA must continue to implement the GSP while under probation but the relationship between the GSA and the landowners is being assumed by the State Board. How does that work? The staff letter needs to be revised to clarify this. The State Board members have remained a lot more quiet about this than the GSAs are comfortable with. There needs to be more transparency between the public and the State Board’s collaboration with the Department of Water Resources.
Another problem is the State Board’s staff is not going to carve out any space for good actor GSAs and that is counter to how that is supposed to work. There has to be some kind of hearing before that determination can be made. The comment letter will include asking the State Board staff letter be revised to address the concerns mentioned above and to ensure the State Board is aware GSAs will be heard. The KGA draft response will be reviewed by the board but pending any edits the board voted to send it out.
Executive Director’s Report
Poire reported the agreement with Provost & Pritchard administration, website and GIS services has been amended with a shorted, seven-day opt out period included. The board directed staff to send out the 2024 budget and costs for KGA GSA and associated members have to be approved and a deadline set for approval.
The next consideration was 2024 meeting dates for the board to approve. Poire is retiring so whoever takes over from her will have something to work with. The board approved.
Greg Hammet said WKWSD has 23 monitoring wells in the network which is overkill. There are more than enough nested wells to provide a clear and comprehensive monitoring network. The Board agreed.
Next Poire spoke about the annual report guide released by DWR. This is supposed to show what DWR is looking for. She said the KGA’s annual reports have been very much in compliance even though this guide hadn’t been released until recently. She recommended KGA continue using Todd Groundwater to prepare the report and each member sign on. She said from now on there has to be a comparison to previous years to show what direction the aquifer is headed. DWR is requiring these annual reports to use the hydrographs provided on the SGMA Portal to ensure consistency.
DWR requires data from the GSAs that it then uses to create the hydrographs. That raised the question, since the DWR is creating these hydrographs does a GSA need to continue its Data Management System and Poire said the GSAs will still be required to maintain a DMS.
The last item in the Executive Director report was accomplishments and forward work plan. The subbasin study update will be this Friday and all are invited. Land IQ will be releasing demand numbers and that is how the grant was written, transparency.
Other Matters & Closed Session
New business and correspondence were the next items on the agenda before closed session, but there weren’t any. Closed session listed one potential case of litigation and an item about employee recruitment. The open session ended at 8:54am. Go be good to yourselves and each other.
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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, 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