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Lower Tule River Groundwater Commission July 28, 2020

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Ger Bennett BannerThe Lower Tule Groundwater Commission met on Tuesday, July 28, 2020 at 2:00pm remotely from its Tipton headquarters at the Lower Tule River Irrigation District offices on Zoom. LTRID General Manager Eric Limas is also the manager of the LTGC began the meeting by showing a list of who commented on the LTRID GSA’s GSP. There was an even dozen comments. Limas said most of them were generic to the GSAs in the Tule Sub Basin. For some reason the California Poultry Association had a specific comment on outreach. Otherwise these comments are from the second wave. The GSPs were open to comment before they were submitted to DWR. These are public comments after DWR posted the submitted comments.Conterra

Limas said the attorney’s and staff will present the commission with options to study and in turn forward to the GSA board. Four Creeks Engineering will be advising on what and even who to comment to. This round of comments may not be ripe for responses. Engineer Dave DeGroot said DWR has been unclear and vague in what it wants the GSAs to do but there will have to be response to DWR’s comments of course.

Next Limas showed a monthly total of ET figures and if I understood a little more than 200,000 a/f has been used since the start of the year. Cal Poly University San Luis Obispo and Land IQ are providing the figures. More weather stations are being installed to help ground truth the estimates. I could count about eight men in the conference room and the video image was small. I couldn’t begin to identify who was there. There are a couple of voices besides Lima’s I recognize but it wouldn’t be an accurate report to try to say who said what for the most part. Also, depending I suppose on who was sitting where, some of the voices were unclear.

There was no public comment and not many folks watching for that matter. A lot of the discussion centered on keeping amount of water used accurate. There are meters in some locations. A wise woman once told me back when SGMA was spinning up, he with the most data wins and that is a good recommendation for the private metering of water usage.

Staff has also broken down the sources of the water used; precipitation, sustainable groundwater yield, district delivered surface water and such. It’s even broken down by how many acres of each amount are allocated, consumed and the percent remaining. It’s a pretty good picture of what is happening with water usage. All of this data will be compiled and presented to landowners quarterly.

Limas said hydrogeologist Thomas Harder and DeGroot are looking at what the impacts on the GSP will be if groundwater credits are transferred between LTRID and Pixley ID. An analysis is being conducted and a model constructed. There could be a cap established on how much can be transferred without further review. A coordination agreement with Lower Tule and Pixley should be easy since they are under the same management. Other districts upgrade in the Tule Sub Basin shouldn’t be a problem for LTR or Pixley ID.

Limas reported since the biggest subsidence impact on the Friant Kern Canal is in the East Tule GSA area he’s keeping a close watch on what’s happening. The Friant Water Association is negotiating with the ETGSA on mitigation.

Limas said all the GSPs have been submitted throughout the Valley. He noted the problem with the coordination agreement in Madera County but all else is on schedule. DeGroot said he expects the Tule Sub Basin GSP is going to be under the DWR microscope due to subsidence and other matters.

Someone asked Limas what mitigation FWA is asking for and he said much of it is monetary. The transitional pumping study indicates there will be three more feet of subsidence on the FKC in the next 20 years until it settles out. Friant is searching for reimbursement of expenses.

There was also a question of how the three zone – three tiered investment in canal repair will work. Geoff Vanden Heuvel of the Milk Producers Council said there are other districts in the Tule Sub Basin who are taking private investor money under the third zone to secure FKC capacity. Limas said this isn’t about extra water supplies, it’s about capacity. They were throwing around the figure of $200k a/f. The investors still have to work with the districts to get the water. Vanden Heuvel also said right at the DWR comment deadline the Wonderful Company made comments questioning the Harder report on who caused the subsidence on the FKC. Wonderful has funded a study that shows more blame to the western side of the sub basin, it shows a wide problem. Vanden Heuvel also said the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint is drawing up plans that has at least preliminarily a canal coming through LTR/Pixley IDs. Limas said he, Eric Quinley GM Delano Earlimart ID and Sean Geivet GM of Porterville, Sausalito and Terra Bella IDs met with Scott Hamilton, head of the Blueprint technical committee to discuss some of the opportunities. New, major canals are expensive and there are still some restrictions on exporting more water from the Delta. Vanden Heuvel said Stantec Engineering has worked up some cost estimates on what this will cost. He said the big cost is lifting the water. He also said they are moving fast.  

The next meeting was proposed to take place in September instead of the quarterly schedule in October. Limas told everyone he’d give them plenty of warning. 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. The Lower Tule River GSA is in the Tule Sub Basin and is DWR #5-022.13