The North Kings GSA Advisory Committee met on GoToMeetings on Friday, May 14, 2021. I was having a little audio trouble. I couldn’t get my mic to work which is just as well I suspect. It’s a Friday afternoon and these meetings are often pleasantly efficient. Executive Director Kassy Chauhan announced there was a quorum and Chairman Scott Redelfs called the meeting to order at 1:30pm. Chauhan took the official roll call and there were almost 20-people tuned in.
After roll call the minutes were approved. Ron Samuelian of Provost & Pritchard gave a Kings Basin update saying there has been some sweet grant funding approved. It sounded like it was about $4.8 million. He said there should be some more millions coming from the state and he encouraged everyone to have their projects ready before the funding and grant process itself. The first round of funding was very competitive. He said DWR used to release its scoring decisions but has strangely stopped. But one project was a half point out of the money and one would certainly like to know if they had used a different color of envelop when they mailed it in would they have had their project funded.
Samuelian also said the Spring 2021 groundwater contours map isn’t finished due to more data still coming in. The NKGSA takes up about a third of the Kings River Subbasin. He said on a map of groundwater elevations from 2019 to 2020 you can see some areas with gains and some areas with less drawdown. On a whole the short term is positive but it’s the long term that counts. He said since 2015 there have been two dry years and two wet years with a normal year stuck in between the wet ones. There was a graph that showed a significant drop in groundwater from 2019 to 2020 but the GSA is in far better shape than it was in 2015.
The next slide showed the estimated demand changes based on hydrology and weather. The slide also showed how most of the surface water that came into the subbasin is due to Fresno Irrigation District’s imports. Although that might not be entirely accurate as I suppose the Kings River water wouldn’t be counted as imported water. Samuelian said there are still data gaps as much of the figures used to develop and refine estimates were not considered as important as part of the record keeping as it is now with SGMA. He did say the NKGSA is blessed with almost as much surface water on average as its demands. Redelfs said something to the effect it was good to know where the problems are originating and even better to know they aren’t originating in the NKGSA. Engineer Adam Claes said it is safe to say the conditions this year closely resemble those in 2015.
The lovely Lisa Koehn gave the financial report. Before retiring Koehn was high in the City of Clovis’ accounting hierarchy. Although free she stayed and continues to work with the GSA. She gave the committee the expense report and financial statements from last month. It didn’t take long. Chauhan thanked Koehn and said the dues and subscription expense was increased because ACWA raised its dues. The board approved the reports and paying its bills.
The next item was the 2021-2022 proposed budget. Koehn said income has gone up as has expenses. Public outreach costs have increased. She said the Kings Subbasin Coordination is expected to cost $35,000 for this year. A legal reserve of $500,000 is needed. It started at $200,000 and will be increased annually. Koehn went over other budget items subject to change. There is an $85,000 overall budget increase.
Brock Buche with the City of Fresno said the city will be shouldering a share of this costs and wants to hear better justification for the increase. Claes said there is a greater need this coming year as it isn’t know how DWR will view the GSP. Chauhan said NKGSA has allocated $100,000 to deal with this if it there has to be revisions to the plan. She said NKGSA is also investing in underground flow studies as demonstrated by Samuelian’s report. Buche wanted to know why the legal reserve is increasing. Chauhan said that increase is based on the advice of legal counsel. Buche proposed suspending the legal fund for a year. Buche said the increase in legal reserves was recommended by attorneys and it sounded like he didn’t find that source to be unbiased. Redelfs asked if the engineering and consultant’s budget could be reduced instead of the legal reserve. Chauhan said all of the financing is up to the board and the committee can recommend doing so. But she reminded everyone there is a drought and a GSP review coming up. She wasn’t sure if the board would be comfortable in reducing consultant fees under these conditions.
Buche said perhaps take a little off the top of the consulting budgets and slow down the increase of the legal fund. Claes said you can pay now or pay later. Redelfs said he understands the City and County of Fresno are more impacted by these budgets. Buche said there shouldn’t be an increase this year at all. A motion was made to that effect and seconded. And it passed.
Koehn then spoke about voluntary contributions. Pinedale & Malaga WD and Self Help Enterprises have donated much of that money and credit will go to the City of Fresno as the donors are within city limits.
Chauhan said she would like the current projects in the GSP to be reviewed and any new proposed projects need to be submitted. There are grants that will require the project to be included in the GSP to be eligible. There will be some further meetings on the submissions for review and selection before the end of the month. A tight timeline but it would be a shame to omit a viable, beneficial project because it wasn’t included in the GSP.
On the policy side Chauhan said member agencies are going to be asked to settle on how information and data will be submitted.
Chauhan gave her report and said Samuelian did a find job of reporting on the Kings Subbasin update. The recent outreach for schools and SGMA webinar attracted participants from as far away as Livermore. It proved popular and offered CE units. She said this was a group effort of outreach she likes the cost sharing benefits that came with that. She’s on the outlook for other opportunities.
Chauhan has been keeping an eye on the San Joaquin Valley Water Collaborative Action Plan to see how it might impact NKGSA. That is the large tent group that meets with Tim Quinn at Stanford.
Sarge Green of Fresno State asked Chauhan to work with him on a drought preparedness plan for the Valley. This plan is at the request of the state. There is also a San Joaquin Valley Planning meeting coming up soon.
Chauhan said short videos showing what each member agency is doing have started coming in. Those will be featured on the NKGSA website. She also said the more information the bigger the GSA’s blog is getting. NKGSA has been working with the Kings River Conservation District on outreach.
The monitoring network has slowed down because due to a lack of surface water the wells are pumping. So staff is working on getting agreements and access from the well owners being solicited to allow their wells to be monitored. Also the new well permit review policy is paying off. Chauhan gets to take a look at the new permits and track and the data as a way to spot trends. She said there has been a big increase in permits this year. That’s a part of a drought year. And Chauhan was contacted by one of the big universities in California about dry wells. A report was issued that included estimates for the Kings Subbasin. She needs to review it more before making a comment.
Starting in July a series of reports and presentations will be highlighting the successful projects being worked on in the NKGSA.
There were no public comments. Claes asked Redelfs when the meeting might be in person again. Redelfs said that depends on vaccination rates. He said he’d like to take a look for the July meetings perhaps. He said Cal OSHA is supposed to relinquish control to the county later this month. He said the City of Clovis Council is now holding in-person meetings. That’s a good sign.
Claes gave a water report saying this year is shaping up to be severely dry. According to data on the Kings River going back more than a century this year is the driest on record. This puts a focus on SGMA and getting ready for the wet years. Half of the driest years on record have taken place since 2006. Redelfs said this could mean we’re getting all the dry years out of the way up front. Good for him and his glass half full outlook. Fresno ID is slated to run for one month. He said snow melt is being soaked up into the soil instead of making its way to the reservoirs. He said this is throwing all the models off track.
Redelfs asked for a motion to adjourn and there was silence. I’m guessing Claes report at the end knocked them back so hard it took them a while to return to their senses. Or maybe they got shy all of a sudden. Eventually some folks moved, seconded and approved ending the meeting at 3:10pm. It wasn’t a nice, short Friday afternoon meeting after all. 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.
MEMBERS: Bakman Water Company, Cities of Kerman, Fresno and Clovis, Fresno County, Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District, Garfield Water District and Fresno ID
Executive Director – Kassy Chauhan
DWR # Listing: Basin San Joaquin, Sub Basin Kings 5-022.08