The Tule River Sub Basin GSA technical advisory committee meeting was held at Lower Tule River Irrigation District headquarters in Tipton on Wednesday, August 30, 2017. I received a call this morning from a trusted source who told me he was driving south on I-5 near Kettleman City when the temperature dropped 15 degrees or more and it started raining hard enough for windshield wipers. Nothing on par with Harvey but interesting. Speaking of Hurricane Harvey; in August of last year there was a storm that hit Louisiana. I know because my wife and I have a small home near Lafayette that had flood damage. This was a tropical depression and the winds were not anywhere near hurricane speed. But in less than three days it dropped half of California’s average, annual rainfall on an area roughly the size of the San Joaquin Valley from Fresno to Bakersfield. What’s happening back there along the Gulf of Mexico right now is even worse.*
I also got an advanced call alerting me Dane Mathis and Trevor Joseph of DWR would be at today’s meeting and they were. And they weren’t he only ones. The room was packed; maybe two chairs free. I was using one of them for a desk for as long as they dragged spares from the storeroom. One could probably host an intimate wedding in the room. The LTRID HQ is actually a very nice facility. The dairy directly across the street strikes me as extra pungent and in the heat rather fly prone.
Chairman Richard Schafer kicked things off at 2:00pm. After self-introductions Mr. Schafer asked for any additions or deletions to the agenda or public comments and there were none. The minutes were approved and today’s big theme began.
Today’s meeting included representatives from all six GSAs and but for a very small amount of white areas to be absorbed by nearby GSAs the entire sub basin is covered. The map is for all purposes final and the next step is to get a coordination agreement together. Engineer/consultant Thomas Harder was present and Mr. Schafer thanked him for the report he prepared that paved the way for the coordination to come. Not everyone had received a copy of the report. Harder said for a cool $250 you can get a hard copy or for free a pdf. CDs will also be available. Joseph was willing to review the report for fatal flaw but not a full appraisal as to its meeting all the required conditions of a coordination agreement. Dale Brogan, Special Projects Manager Delano Earlimart Irrigation District he’d like to keep on the agenda a slot to reflect how sustainable yield is defined as an amount. Harder said he’s working with consumptive use needs to be expanded into the final figure in determining sustainable yield. Brogan said different GSAs using different formulas to arrive at safe yield will result in different yields. There are several ways to come up with a safe yield but a sub basin needs to be uniform in its formula as to be on an even field for dividing up how much water everyone gets. As the model is developed some of this will have to be standardized. Joseph said DWR wont’ be looking for a model that matches its model in every manner. There will be some flexibility by sub basin. In summation Brogan said as the sub basin drives toward a coordination agreement it needs to be recognized we’re not done discussing safe yields.
Next Mr. Schafer moved on to the item dealing with DWR regulations. The first of five bullet points was titled base year and base line conditions. He said using 2015 as the base year leaves him questioning DWR’s rational. Joseph said DWR understands that date to mean GSAs can address undesirable conditions pervious to January 1st, 2015. He said a district has the option to set water levels thresholds higher than, equal to or less than those January 1st, 2015. Mr. Schafer asked him if each GSP in a sub basin have to utilize the same concept of which date is chosen; must they all be linked in a uniform way? Joseph said the sub basin needs to define undesirable results – what is the bear minimum? A process to determine this has been laid out in the Best Management Practices document coming out soon. He also said the sub basin will be looked at as a whole as opposed to looking at individual GSAs within a sub basin. DWR is interested in the sub basin, not one GSA or GSP at a time. Joseph said there will be a SGMA workshop put on by DWR in Clovis on September 20th. Hopefully by that time the BMP will be released at least in draft form. Howard said he likes the way the Tule Sub Basin is laid out. It is almost ideal management areas formed over the land. Joseph said just receiving an undesirable result or over shooting a minimum threshold doesn’t always mean the State Board is going to step in. If the board sees the sub basin is doing its best then there will be flexibility. Trends are more important than one-time undesirable results. He said there could be cases where undesirable results take place as part of a GSP for a while.
I asked if DWR has enough staff to adequately handle evaluating all these plans and Joseph said (if I understood him) DWR is ramping up. He added DWR is funded through the general fund – it is not at this time based on fees revenue such as the State Board.
DEID GM Eric Quinley passed out a one-page statement on the current and ongoing threat of subsidence. The Friant/Kern Canal’s capacity has been hamstrung by subsidence. He requested the MOU group hire expertise to keep subsidence from making a bad situation worse. Harder felt he could in this area. Some folks want to do what Quinley calls “transitional over-pumping” to ease into SGMA compliance.
The next bullet point was a discussion of “Initial Notification Section 353.6” and Joseph said there are templates on the DWR website to use.
Mr. Schafer said he’s been in contact with attorney Jim Koontz talking about replacing the current MOU with a coordination agreement. But since this is such a heavy subject the talk went on to the next bullet point which was GSP contents. That is also on line at DWR’s website. I remember some teachers used to invite students to submit their work early and get an opportunity to improve said work. I think Mr. Schafer had something similar in mind when he asked Joseph if one GSP from the Tule Sub Basin could be completed and reviewed. Joseph said yes if there were no fatal flaws it could become a good template for the other GSAs. Mr. Schafer suggested the MOU develop DEID’s GSP and use the results as a guide for everyone else. Brogan and Quinley were happy with this but Sean Geivet, GM Porterville ID said he doesn’t want to put his resources in someone else’s GSP. He wants to put that effort into a coordination agreement. Geivet is a big fan of Australian Professor Mike Young’s roadmap for SGMA. It sounded to me like the East Tule GSA is of the same mind. Brogan said the coordination will be made of everyone looking over everyone else’s shoulders trying to not get screwed. Matt Hurley, GM Angiola WD said once that happens everything else will take care of itself.
Geivet said there is a water budget, a safe yield and how to monitor those things on the table; that’s the start for a coordination agreement. Brogan said there are more than 200 items that must be taken into consideration for each GSA. This is where the trees began to die; Koontz handed out documents titled: “SGMA Provisions Related to Coordination Agreements”, and “Memorandum of Understanding to Develop and Implement a Coordination Agreement in the Tule Sub Basin.” It was pointed out by Denise England from Tulare County the county will have to be included because of white areas.
Mr. Schafer called this an agreement to agree to agree to prepare a coordination agreement. It read like it was written by a lawyer trying to stitch together a multitude of public entities ranging from counties to water districts. England said there is now a Tulare County GSA (with five small, white area parcels in the Kaweah Sub Basin) and her attorneys are adamant the TCGSA enters into this MOU. It might take an attorney to fully understand this.
Joseph said from DWR’s perspective a coordination agreement is more of a technical document than a legal document. He said there are technical elements that have to be agreed upon sub basin wide. Mathis said it might be wise to create a living coordination agreement that expands as more considerations and data are developed. I think it was Hurley who said it was like a pre-nep. There were many other comments but the bottom line is for Tulare County to finish its comments.
There is a grant going through Tulare County to help get things up and running. England said it would be good to get that invoiced before the MOU comments. Next a sub basin grant was discussed. Joseph recommended getting things together sooner than later. The folks here were asked to designate Lower Tule River ID as the fiscal agent for the Tule Sub Basin GSAs. Joseph said DWR will work with the critically over-drafted basins first. I think the total of this competitive grant is $5 million and he expects a lot of applications will be turned in. DWR wants one application per sub basin.
I asked Joseph if DWR would accept non-computer models and he said yes but he doubted most sub basins would be simple enough to compile the necessary data without a computer model. He said perhaps a small, isolated sub basin might be able to get away from a computer model. That had nothing to do with making LTRID the fiscal agent but the folks assembled liked that and they’ll take it back to the home GSA boards.
Next was financial matters. Engineer Dave DeGroot has been working in several capacities. Deer Creek has been acting as the fiscal agent and DeGroot has been in charge of this interaction. He handed out pages of stuff full of figures. I’m starting to grow weary and my eye lids are getting heavy. DeGroot generously offered to work with all the GSAs on the grant application I just couldn’t keep up with the discussion. Thankfully my friend Paul Hendrix was sitting next to me and woke me up when my snoring became too loud.
Budgets – fiscal not water – were the next topic. DeGroot gave a budget as to date. Less than half the budget has been spent this year. Overall the group is $200,000 in the hole because of cash flow problems. The County of Tulare owes $201,000 and when that comes in there should be a good carryover as the fiscal year ends at the end of September. Brogan said he’d be comfortable with Schafer and DeGroot putting together a budget for next year. Brogan also expects the mangers to get together and talk over coordination and that would be a good time to unveil the draft budget. The next meeting will be September 19th. And that was that.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 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. *Watch out for fundraisers purporting to help those devastated but have alternative agendas; i.e. The Texas Relief Fund is a front for the SEIU to raise money for labor organizing under the guise of humanitarian help. Sick but true.
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.
TULE SUB BASIN GSA – Main Spiritual Advisor – Richard Schafer, Engineer – Dave DeGroot & Attorney Jim Koontz. This is a MOU group of the six GSA with the sub basin.