On April 24, 2018 the California Department of Water Resources held a workshop on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 in Clovis, California’s beautiful Veteran’s Memorial District theater. Tania Carlone, a facilitator from the Consensus Building Institute, kicked things off a little bit after 1:00pm. Steven Springhorn, DWR said the purpose of the workshop is to help inform Groundwater Sustainability Agencies and Stakeholders about developing Groundwater Sustainability Plans. Springhorn thanked everyone for attending and asked for a show of hands from those directly involved in GSAs and more than half the room of maybe 100 folks raised their hand.
Dane Mathis, DWR spoke about cooperation and collaboration as the two most identified words believed to be key to GSP success. He thanked a string of NGOs for their help in outreach. Next Simar Dhanota, DWR told folks there is a bi-weekly email update and website produced by DWR about SGMA and event information. DWR has issued guidance on how to engage with stakeholders and tribal government. These are not rules but rather suggestions according to Dhanota. As it turns out the Delta Mendota, Turlock and Madera Sub Basins qualify for Facilitation Support Services. The DWR Regional Office in Fresno is the place to get info.n April 24, 2018 the California Department of Water Resources held a workshop on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 in Clovis, California’s beautiful Veteran’s Memorial District theater. Tania Carlone, a facilitator from the Consensus Building Institute, kicked things off a little bit after 1:00pm. Steven Springhorn, DWR said the purpose of the workshop is to help inform Groundwater Sustainability Agencies and Stakeholders about developing Groundwater Sustainability Plans. Springhorn thanked everyone for attending and asked for a show of hands from those directly involved in GSAs and more than half the room of maybe 100 folks raised their hand.
Springhorn said there is Technical Support Services also available to help critically over-drafted basins like those in the San Joaquin Valley. Statewide data sets will be made available soon. To get TSS you have to be a GSA and there is only one contact per sub basin. The critical sub basins have first priority to receive TSS help. Field activities and modeling tools are the two ways TSS can help. This includes training for both field and modeling help. Springhorn said the goal is to educate GSA staff so it can use the models. There needs to be a single contact and application from what Springhorn said was “the basin.” I think he means sub basin. In my humble opinion SGMA, while not rocket surgery, has much room for confusion. I believe it would be helpful for the state agency in charge of implementing SGMA to use the correct terms. Notice I didn’t write the federal or county agency although they are also part of the government. While writing my personal diatribe above Springhorn talked about the SGMA Data Viewer. This is great stuff for folks who like to spend time on computers, like engineers. The Data Viewer has map information about subsidence, water quality, storage and other relevant data. It has CASGEM groundwater levels and even individual wells’ historical hydrograph. Combine this with other info and you can get a look at wells of a certain depth or time in history to develop a GSP. He said there are other categories DWR is waiting for more data from GSPs to fill out.
Tyler Hatch, DWR spoke about climate change data also available at the SGMA Data Viewer. Hatch said climate change is a complex issue and gave a brief overview of how this data was developed and how to use the data for determining water budgets. He then spoke about the C2VSim Fine Grain model that DWR likes to use. He said the calibration is being updated and there is a 30-day window to make comments and suggestions.
To Mr. Springhorn’s credit he did clarify he meant sub basin during the question and answer period. Another question – will a GSA be able to rely solely on DWR data or if a consultant will have to be hired? Springhorn said that would be a case by case basis depending the amount and quality of data available. He did say DWR isn’t looking for perfect plans and understands it’s a process.
Mark Nordberg, State Water Resources Control Board spoke on GSP development. He said the two primary themes of SGMA is local control and sustainability. He skimmed the purpose and structure of SGMA. I’ll spare you. He did say there are 21 over-drafted sub basins in the state and we’re in one of the critical ones. There are four phases; GSA formation, GSPs, implementation of GSPs and finally sustainability by 2040. There are nine GSP regulation articles that must be followed for the GSP to be considered valid. The GSPs have to have five parts under Article 5 Part One – Administration information: general info, agency info, description of plan area and notice and communication. Part Two is the Basin Setting, Part Three Sustainable Management Criteria, Part Four monitoring network and I’ll be danged if Nordberg didn’t talk faster than I could type to get Part Five listed. By the way all of these parts have multiple bullet points under them. Nordberg talked about defining sustainability through Best Management Practices to avoid the seven undesirable results. Nordberg listed what had to be included in a GSP but I hope there’s a PDF of his talk accessible somewhere. He reminded everyone the coordination is a legally binding document. Inter-basin agreements are not required but are options. They are also legally binding. Note to DWR/SWRCB: don’t hold your breath. I could be wrong. Nordberg also referred to sub basins as basins. Its frustrating. I wonder if during evaluations of GSPs those so tasked will be as lax.
Monica Reis from Sacramento, not sure if she is from DWR or the state board, talked about notification requirements. A GSP needs an initial notification. So far there have been 80 notifications statewide. This can be accomplished online. She also doesn’t care if multiple GSPs are prepared for an entire BASIN or a sub basin. Dear Reader: I apologize for my hang up on this. But once again see what happens if a GSP doesn’t use the correct language.
Sam Bolan-Brien manages SGMA for the State Board. He said it’s either get the GSP together or the State Board will step in. He sounded mildly threatening to me. But I’m already in a bad mood. He said instead of untangling why the folks in sub basin can’t come to a coordination agreement the State Board will just step in. He said a working plan that is being implemented is what the State Board is interested in. He said to notify him if someone would like a State Board representative to come to a GSA and try to intimidate them, I mean speak with them about the State Board’s limited role in SGMA.
Bret Wyckoff in in charge of DWR’s Bulletin 118. He said defining basin boundaries is Bulletin 118’s job. The last time it was updated was 2013. In 2014 along came the California Water Action Plan which had large parts rolled into SGMA. As a result, Bulletin 118 is now to determine conditions of critically overdraft and basin boundary modifications. He said beginning in 2020 B-118 will be updated every five years. Basin reports are available online. He said B-118 is an attempt to help folks get better information on the state’s groundwater. Long-term, Wyckoff wants B-118 to be the go-to statewide reference document for groundwater management in California.
Jason Braddock (sp?), DWR works with financial matters such as Prop One awards. $85.8 million was awarded with $16 million going to severely disadvantaged communities and $69 million going to SGMA grants. Braddock gave a short report.
The meeting then took a break. Everyone was invited to move to a different room for informational booth one on one sessions to discuss things with staff. Springhorn was a good sport about the basin v. sub basin thing and Bolan-Brien wasn’t as hostile up close. The state is trying to present as much information as possible. Most, no, all of the water professionals implementing SGMA told me they didn’t learn anything new. I believe that’s due in a large part of the efforts to keep as much of SGMA local as possible. The folks at the State Board and DWR will tell you they hope they never have to take over. Most, no, all of them who spoke with me said they don’t want the crushing work load that would create. Most everyone from the state and the public agreed they pity the Assemblyman or State Senator who’s unlucky enough to have the State Board take control of an area in their district. And that was that.
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