The Kings River East Groundwater Sustainability Agency held a workshop on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at the Dinuba City Council chambers. The workshop began at 10:00 am with Alta Irrigation District General Manager Chad Wegley asking everyone to introduce themselves. Driving down here I was thinking about something I wanted to share with you. There was major water legislation passed in Sacramento at the beginning of the last century that established Pre-1914 water rights. Fast forward to a couple of years ago and we now have the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014. Two major pieces of legislation one hundred years apart. Coincidence or conspiracy? There is a comment section at the bottom of this report – at least the www.waterwrights.net version – weigh in and let me and the world know what you think.
Wegley gave a good explanation of the Kings River Sub Basin. The Tulare Lake Basin encompasses most of the area from Wheeler Ridge in Southern Kern County to the San Joaquin River. The Kings River Sub Basin lies between the Kings River and the San Joaquin River. There are seven GSAs in the sub basin. The KREGSA is blessed with good groundwater levels for the most part. Last year’s wet winter raised the average water level in Alta ID by 16 feet.
Attorney Lorene Layne gave an update on how KREGSA is looking at raising money to support itself. So far Alta ID has been fronting the money and there may be some grant money coming from Tulare County and Prop One. The budget for the next three years will total $1 million and change or about $350,000 annually. The fees can be paid up front if someone wanted to. This will fund sustainability plans, hydrogeologic review, sub basin coordination with other GSAs and landowner outreach.
Prop 26 is the method being proposed to raise the funds. How to proportionally recover costs is the big question. Nominal fees for agencies with no groundwater pumping or fractured rock aquifers where the pumping is negligible is one part. Groundwater pumping fees will be the other half. If every pump in the GSA had a meter it’d be a lot easier but since that isn’t happening Evapotranspiration rates, type of crop and acreage are taken into account to arrive at a fee unless the landowner does have metered readings that show a lower pumping amount.
There are six agencies subject to the nominal fee and that total is only $58,000 over the three years.
- Fresno County
- Tulare County
- Hills Valley Irrigation District
- Tri-Valley Water District
- Kings River Water District
- City of Orange Cove
Everyone else is expected to pay $1.45 per a/f annually. That covers five areas where pumping takes place.
- Alta ID
- Orange Cove ID
- Unincorporated Areas
- City of Dinuba
- City of Reedley
Who wants to pay $1.45 per a/f? Anyone who doesn’t want to pay the State Board $85 per a/f for noncompliance. Alta ID charges a very low $4.75 per a/f so this isn’t so bad. Plus the $50,000 from a grant being held by Tulare County and a $200,000 plus Prop One. This fees also has an end in sight in 2020. The GSP must be completed by then. There will be some reserve – prudent reserve Layne called it – to help get the implementation started. After that there could be a Prop 218 Election to keep things afloat for the next 20-years as the deadline to attain sustainability reaches.
Wegley said the soil types, land use and hydrogeology is varied considerably in the GSA. He said the state likes the one size fits all approach. It is willing to force that square peg into a round hole no matter how much it has to fleece the taxpayer to purchase a bigger hammer. Wegley said the KRWD could pump all day and not draw down the aquifer beneath it by hardly anything. Should they be charged as much as a property to the southern end of the GSA that really draws down the level?
Prop 26 is voted on by the GSA board after a hearing. It doesn’t go out to a vote of the landowners like a Prop 218 vote. But, Layne reminded folks, the Prop 26 has a defined shelf life, it ends in 2020. Prop 218 can go on for as long as the sun shines and the grass grows. While it is nice to know the Prop 26 fees will have a stake in the heart soon enough, what keeps Wegley up at night is some mad man or woman in Sacramento attaching another piece of legislation on SGMA that changes the game. Consider it was written in the dead of night by state Senator Fran Pavly of Santa Barbara. SGMA doesn’t impact her district. I trust the government – to do what is right for itself. If it perpetrates more power for itself the government will lean to that direction. I believe the situation in California has tipped to where the government is no longer looking out for the people, it is saturated by special interest and self interest and that is who and what gets served first.
Down off the soap box and back to the meeting. The topic of flood water came up because Semitropic Water Storage District has filed to get some of the Kings River flood water and that is very unpopular along the Kings River. It was one of the projects heard before the California Water Commission’s Prop One application hearing. Wegley said it was roundly opposed by folks in the Kings River area.
Someone asked how other GSAs are funding themselves and Layne said there are many other ways. JPAs have cash calls, there are some self-assessors and over coarse Prop 218 elections. It depends to a great deal on the make up the GSAs. She also said there will a KREGSA board meeting here in Dinuba next Thursday February 1st at 2:00 pm. And that was that.
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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.
Kings River East GSA Board – Chair Steven Worthley Tulare County, Vice Chair Mary Fast, Buddy Mendes Fresno County, Fernando Rubalcaba Special Districts Drinking Water, Loren Booth Special Districts Irrigation Water, Jack Brandt Alta Irrigation District and Steve Boos Ag Production. General Manager Chad Wegley, Attorney Lauren Layne