The Kern Groundwater Authority Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its Wednesday, October 25, 2023 board of directors meeting in Bakersfield and on Zoom. At 8:00am on the nose according to my clock Chairman Dan Waterhouse called the meeting to order. Everyone introduced themselves and saluted the flag, the way a public agency meeting should begin.
Public comment was welcomed but there weren’t any. The minutes were approved and Executive Director Patty Poire gave the financial report including paying the bills. She showed the board the KGA is in line with the budget and it should balance out by the end of the year. As she implied, the purpose of a budget isn’t to use it as a bank account but as a guide to spending. Nothing wrong with having a little savings at the end of the year but if you way underspend, you best learn from it because the budget was off as much as if you overspent. Kind of a scary thought but it makes sense.
Valerie Kincade said the State Water Resources Control Board staff has issued its first draft report on the inadequate Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Tulare Lake Subbasin. There are six subbasins in probation. State Board staff listed a carefully worded phrase that probation isn’t really State Board oversight but rather additional local control. Hmm? There will be a hearing but nobody knows for sure when and it implies the deficiencies will be addressed prior.
If the GSP doesn’t meet SGMA requirements a report on how this harmed communities of color must be presented. Good thing we’re all people of color or that would come across as racist against the melanin deficient. Other provisions include meter requirements based on three tiers of previous pumping. There are equity considerations for BIPOC protection.
Please know this is supposed to mean non-white person and it isn’t a good method for segregating humans. Black, Indigenous People Of Color. White isn’t a color, it’s the absence of color. Even albinos are not without some color and even if it manifested itself as truly white – albinism isn’t restricted to only one ethnicity or even one species. There are albino tigers and alligators. And – we are all indigenous. I’m indigenous to the San Joaquin Valley, to California, to the United States of America to the western and northern hemispheres and to the planet Earth. BIPOC is a made up term intended to divide us along racist lines. And it doesn’t make you or me racist to expose racism. Have courage when people speak their truth instead of the truth. Remember, the truth is absolute, not relative, it is powerful and it will set you free.
Kincade said she was surprised to see the amount of detail (180 pages) of what the problem is with an extreme focus on technical detail. She was also surprised how nothing was mentioned about how to get out of probation.
There was a significant mention of the State Board’s groundwater authority outside of SGMA. That’s a matter of concern because that’s very different than what was presented in SGMA. The State Board draft read a bit like a legal brief on this matter. Without a link to SGMA the State Board doesn’t really have jurisdiction over groundwater. But I bet you it’d like to.
There is a great deal of talk about mitigation and there is no clear requirement in SGMA for this as a part of intervention. Public trust and unreasonable use has been inserted into the State Board’s prioritization. At the same time the draft instructs the GSAs to continue forward with their inadequate GSPs which isn’t in SGMA as I understand it.
Kincade suggested keeping a close eye on comments on the draft report and the KGA might opt to comment. She’d like to see more focus on how to get out of probation. There are opportunities on how to address big picture issues but it needs to be in context of how it impacts sustainability. I noted the State Board is under investigation or perhaps the term is review, by the federal Environmental Protection Agency for not being woke enough. I think the term is inclusivity of NGOs getting what they want. In any event I share the opinion of others that this is yet another act in the ongoing political theater Governor Gavin Newsom is playing to position himself as a presidential candidate. Biden may be pushing back with the EPA. Show me I’m wrong, I’m open to it.
Geoff Vanden Heuvel said he was thankful for Kincade’s analysis but there needs to be widespread push back about the deep concerns of authority the State Board is trying to grab out of thin air. I believe it was Director Royce Fast who said to be careful to not get distracted, the focus needs to be on how to get out of probation. Director Kim Brown echoed that sentiment. Waterhouse said he’s getting the sense it would be better for the KGA to focus on the technical aspects of how to get out of probation and let the focus on other fights be conducted elsewhere. That might be a good move tactically but someone will have to take this on strategically.
Executive Director’s Report
Poire presented the cost share refund split for work from Davids Engineering, if I understood. Provost & Pritchard is helping the KGA with grant fund management and other duties. She recommended the KGA continue with the management services in 2024. If I heard correctly there were some grants Poire would like to wrap up before she retires at the end of the year. Forgive me if I got that wrong but there is a personnel item in closed session about employee recruitment/appointment. If I’m correct whoever replaces Poire has a tough job in front of them, for maintaining continuity if nothing else.
Back to the grant topic – there was discussion about the grant being wrapped up by Poire and she said it is actually being held by the Kern River GSA. Brown suggested the P&P proposal be looked at item by item as presented. One portion was agreed to by KGA but other parts of the proposal were recommended to be presented to the entire subbasin. I haven’t seen the management proposal submitted by P&P so the discussion was a bit mysterious to me. The board approved subject to provisions.
The Eastside Water Management Area is the white lands in the Kern Subbasin. They want to make some changes to their monitoring network. That requires all the GSAs in the subbasin to agree. They want to add some additional monitoring wells and pull some unsuitable wells from their plan. The board was cool with it and approved their support to the changes.
Poire gave the board a heads up on the DWR groundwater conditions report. This semiannual report represents data sent by GSAs and received by DWR as of August of this year based on 2022. She reminded the board the GSA reports are taken very seriously at the state level. She pulled a couple of examples with implications in the Kern Subbasin. The Kern has a high extraction rate in comparison to the other subbasins but it was presented in context. This is a data point that is given to the State Board and legislators. All agreed it had some confusing entrees. There is an annual report due in April.
There was no new business or correspondence so the meeting went into closed session for two items – the above mentioned personnel and one case of potential litigation. So, that was that in Kern for the moment. Go be good to each other and yourself.
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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