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North Kings GSA Advisory Committee March 9, 2018

The North Kings GSA Advisory Committee met on Friday, March 9, 2018 at the City of Clovis police headquarters. This is one of my favorite meetings. Its easily the closest meeting to my home I attend and there are people here I’ve known for as long as I can remember. Former Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larsen used to sell my grandfather fertilizer when I was a boy. Well, he’s the only one I remember that far back; the rest of them I’ve met within the past two decades or less. But, after a while you get to know folks and it’s interesting to see how they work together. Chairman and Clovis City Manager Luke Serpa called the meeting at 1:30 pm and the minutes were approved right off the bat.

SGMA requires GSAs to develop and implement an outreach plan. Brandy Swisher, Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District and Craig Moyle, Stantec presented the committee the outreach plan. It is a 50-page long document and went into a fair amount of detail. An interested party database will be informed by Constant Contact email messages. There is a community engagement and activities database with the stakeholder group broken down into three groups based on the extent of outreach needed. Group One is inform, consult and collaborate; Group Two is inform and consult and Group Three is inform.  Tommy Esqueda, City of Fresno Public Utilities Director said to my surprise there are more than 1,000 ag wells within the city limits and that would constitute yet another category.

Adam Claes, Fresno Irrigation District said the key messages created for ag users have been incorporated within FID’s messages to growers. Using fliers, newsletters, utility bill inserts and other means to get the information to the identified target audience were mentioned. Moyle said building awareness of the NKGSA and building up the interested parties database is one of the first goals. He presented a timeframe showing how the GSA will stay in compliance with SGMA outreach requirements. Come 2020 when the GSP has to be finished there will have been and will be more public review and comment periods. This falls under the outreach duties. The planned procedure is to drive traffic to the website.

Esqueda asked a good question about funding such as a 218 Election or Prop 26 or however the funding would be raised will be coordinated through the outreach. FID General Manager Gary Serrato said coordination between members must also be as confusion free. He said he doesn’t want to see more than one 218-Election occurring. Ron Samuelian, Provost & Pritchard said when the state takes a look at the GSP you don’t want them reading the financing to fund the implementation has been determined yet. In other words you have to have the funding in place before the GSP is complete. Serpa asked the committee to approve the outreach plan in order to send it on to the NKGSA Board on March 22nd for its consideration. The committee approved passing it on to the board with recommendations to adopt the plan. Serpa thanked them for all the hard work that went into this. He’s considerate like that. Sarge Green from Fresno State focused the spot light on Moyle saying he did the really heavy lifting.

Bill Stretch, FID said FID will be sending out a newsletter featuring the SGMA info. There will be three FID grower meetings this month including one in Clovis. Stretch said up until a week ago 2018 was shaping up to being the driest year on record. FID was only planning on one month of deliveries instead of the average six month delivery season. Now it looks like there can be at least a three month run. Stretch also reported the technical committee has been looking at the figures of overdraft and it is significantly higher than in the past. Cropping patterns have changed, cities have grown and there has been a record setting drought. This has contributed to the increase in estimated overdraft figures in the 200,000 a/f plus per year. Samuelian said the seven GSAs within the Kings Sub Basin have been working on a dispute resolution for working on the GSPs and their coordination. Having a moderator available is one of the goals in the agreement. The agreement is being drawn and reviewed by attorneys. It should be ready next month. This could be a very valuable template for other sub basins. Other matters the Tech Committee is looking into is how to ensure there is a common criteria throughout all the GSAs so the data can be on the same page. The combination of GSAs within a sub basin has to agree on what data to use, how to use it and how to coordinate the findings. Stretch said the target for the draft GSP is 10-months from now. Serrato said two of the agencies are still trying to figure how to pay for its GSP costs. He mentioned the North Fork Kings GSA going to a 218 election and the Kings River East GSA is relying on a Prop 26 funding method. Sue Ruiz, Self Help Enterprises urged everyone to stay engaged even if they didn’t understand all of the topics discussed. She said the GSA will want the different interests to comment.

As for funding the GSP in addition to the Prop One grant coming through ($250,000 to the NKGSA?) a 218 Election may be necessary. I asked if each parcel in a city gets a vote and the cities themselves actually get a vote but not the individual landowners. The cities kind of get an automatic proxy vote from each landowner. So, that makes things easier. Serpa said the budget is coming up quick so all the committees need to get their budget requests to the administrative/fiscal committee. This is a chain reaction because each of the participating entities need to budget for GSA costs. Serrato suggested setting up a budget meeting for all the committees to weigh in on. That sounded good but triggered a flurry of calendar checks. I didn’t keep up.

There were no public comments, but the members spoke. Larsen said he gets a lot of folks asking him if the state will control the groundwater. He said technically yes but – what about the weather, what about the new growth? He said he doesn’t want to give scary answers. Well, the case is the GSP has yet to be written and until then there isn’t a pat, comfortable answer.

Local control is the key. The State Board doesn’t want to take over a GSA. Its staff has been clearl the board it will not develop any plan but will come in and tell a GSA to develop a working GSP. In the meantime, the State Board will determine the safe yield and invoke pumping restrictions that will most likely be expensive, painful and even punitive to the local economy. It is very important to keep decent relationships with staff. Just because a GSA with in a sub basin isn’t complying doesn’t mean the entire sub basin will be taken over – management areas can be designated. The state needs to legally recognize recharge is a beneficial use of surface water and water designated for place of use should remain in the sub basin until that sub basin achieves sustainability. It was said the State Board wants to come down to the area and have a listening session, quite possibly at the Clovis Memorial District facilities. Larsen was concerned the State Board is heavily weighted by environmentalists and pro-environmentalists who would love nothing more than put ag in the San Joaquin Valley. He said people pass a water bond for storage and are then told they don’t get the full benefits of the storage.

The cities are concerned about the state taking money away much like it has done in the past with redevelopment and other money grabs that redirected funds to Sacramento. It is California after all and the possibility should be included in the FAQs. Samuelian added it would be good to remember the Kings Sub Basin is in better shape than most. It was also added Eric Osterling of Kings River Conservation District worked hard to build good will. With that the meeting adjourned.

 

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright   No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of DAW.

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.

MEMBERS: Bakman Water Company, Cities of Kerman, Fresno and Clovis, Fresno County, Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District, Garfield Water District and Fresno ID

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