By Paul Myers
exeter – The longer officials look at the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), more questions arise and few answers appear. At least that has been the experience of Exeter City Manager Randy Groom and Mayor Pro Tem Dale Sally.
Now pressed to be a part of a Sustainable Groundwater Agency (SGA) by 2017, cities and other entities, not just in the foothills, but all over California are scrambling to find a group. Tasked with creating one last summer, the City of Visalia, Tulare Irrigation District, and the City of Tulare quickly created the Mid-Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency. While their diligence has served them well, they have been unwilling to allow any other entities to enter leaving the remaining public entities of the severely over drafted Kaweah Sub-basin.
With a multitude of irrigation districts that fall along the east side of the sub-basin such as; Stone Corral Irrigation District, Ivanhoe Irrigation District, Exeter Irrigation District, Lewis Creek Water District, Lindsay/Strathmore Irrigation District, and the City of Lindsay, there is some ambiguity over whether there will be one SGA or several on that side of the sub-basin.
However that is not stopping the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District (KDWCD) from taking the lead on filling the gaps. In an effort to cover all of the parts left out by the Mid-Kaweah GSA and all of the areas left out by other SGAs yet to form the KDWCD is taking the lead on creating the Greater Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency. Newest to their fold is the City of Exeter as they agreed to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) during their last council meeting on Tuesday, March 22.
According to Groom the original signers of the MOU are KDWCD, County of Tulare, Kings County Water District, Lakeside Water Conservation District, and California Water Service. However, there are still other members weighing the decision to sign on.
Essentially all entities that have signed the MOU are agreeing to at least be a part of this SGA, although they can choose to leave the SGA as long as they give a written notice 30 days prior. Therefore cities and other entities are still free to chose other agencies that best fit them as long as they are created and accepted by the State by the June 30, 2017 deadline.
“We aren’t in land grab mode,” said KDWCD General Manager Mark Larson. “Our position is that [east Kaweah sub-basin entities] need to let us know what they want to do and we can exclude all those areas.”
The Greater Kaweah SGA will cover all the areas that are not included in another SGA, so the entire sub-basin is encompassed by the deadline. However that is only the first step in the SGMA legislation.
Once the SGAs are established for individual sub-basins there is a need to establish sustainability plans so as to avoid the overdraft of the basin by the year 2020. According to Larson achieving sustainability is generally defined by “living within your means and not using beyond the extent of water leading to undesirable results.”
Because there will be more than one SGA for the Kaweah sub-basin there is a need to have a collaborative agreement to define sustainability. If one SGA extracts too much water from the sub-basin causing an overdraft or if all SGAs have plans that result in overdraft the State will legally force the SGAs to create a collaborative agreement.
Larson notes that it is within the best interest of the Kaweah sub-basin SGAs to work together and pool resources. Because the process to determine the depth and other measurements of the sub-basin are extensive in breadth and expensive in finance, having the SGAs work together and share resources would best help themselves as a group.
As well, according to Larson, the KDWCD has extensive research on a large portion of the sub-basin already. They have been tracking data on the sub-basin since 1972 every two years until 2012. Larson notes that they have approximately 80 percent of data on the entire sub-basin but their largest gap on is on the east side.
“(Water table evaluations) are a huge task and very expensive and everyone is going to want this based on science. You want a fair evaluation so as to best manage your area,” said Larson. “If we are coordinating (east side data) together for the entire sub-basin we’ll have a better chance at success. Spreading our dollars and resources makes a lot of sense.”
Once collaborative agreements are created and sustainability plans are created SGAs have 20 years to reach sustainability as they have put forth in their plan. As well, each plan is required to establish benchmarks within the plan to show they are reaching the level of sustainability they stated they would.
The Kaweah sub-basin stretches as far south as Strathmore and covers the Strathmore Public Utilities District on the east side and dips below the Tulare Irrigation District but north of the City of Corcoran on the west side. On the north side the sub-basin branches out above Woodlake and the Ivanhoe Irrigation district and into Seville. To the west side the basin extends as far as the Lakeside Irrigation Water District, below Hanford and west of the Kings County line.