By Paul Myers
tulare county – Dust is finally beginning to settle over the Kaweah sub-basin as more agencies come down on groundwater decisions. The latest agency to make their move is Tulare County. On a 4-1 vote, on June 14, the Board of Supervisors agreed to sign on to the memorandum of understanding (MOU) of two Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) to help cover “white area” properties.
White areas are the places that do not fall within a public boundary of any of the participating parties in a GSA. That is why the inclusion of Tulare County in both the Greater and East Kaweah GSA plays an important role. Because of the County’s large political boundary, any property that is not covered by a district’s boundary is automatically covered within a GSA. While that is a good sign for property owners in white areas, there is concern over the management of the eastern part of the sub-basin.
On April 7, supervisors Allen Ishida and Steve Worthley attended a meeting regarding the eastside effort at Exeter Irrigation District. Several white area landowners expressed their apprehension to be covered by the East Kaweah GSA because of the GSA’s lack of progress to date, lack of data for the region, and costs associated with the effort.
Richard Moss, director of the Ivanhoe Irrigation District, spoke on behalf of the East Kaweah GSA during the Board of Supervisor’s June 14 meeting, to address concerns over its organization.
“I know there’s been concern over the slow start we had but there are two reasons for that, the first one is that all irrigation districts that make the East Groundwater Sustainability Agency are Federal water contractors, and primarily class one contractors that rely on surface water. And the (Sustainable Groundwater Management Act) was passed while we were dealing a zero percent water allocation for the first time in history,” said Moss. “And the County has been apprehensive to show willingness to participate leaving many white areas…it was difficult to draw the lines and it cast a chill over our formation meetings.”
Oppositely, the Greater Kaweah GSA has all but solidified all of its members and have been meeting bi-weekly to prepare the Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) required to create a GSA.
Moss noted, now that the County has entered into the MOU, the East Kaweah GSA is “on a forced march to get caught up. We have some good examples to draw from so I feel our ability to get caught up will be very dramatic.”
Still ahead of the East Kaweah GSA, the Greater Kaweah GSA prepared a series of deadlines and costs to be borne by the county as a member. According to the Greater Kaweah GSA after ratification of the final JPA the GSA will notify the Department of Water Resources (DWR) of their election to become a GSA and will begin work on a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) by January 2017.
Costs for the entire GSA will be $55,000 for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, $533,100, in FY 2017, and $1,000,000 in FY 2018. Costs for the county will be $9,350 in FY 2016, $90,950 in FY 2017, and $170,000 in FY 2018.
Costs for the East Kaweah GSA have yet to be provided to the county.
The Greater Kaweah GSA has added the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District (KDWCD), the City of Woodlake, the City of Farmersville, the City of Exeter, Lemon Cove Ditch Company, Wallace Ranch Mutual Water Company, St. John’s Water District, Matthew’s Ditch Company, Fleming Ditch Company, Consolidated Peoples Ditch Company, Farmer’s Ditch Company, Ivanhoe Public Utilities District, Lemon Cove Sanitary District, Patterson Tract Water District, and Hamilton Ditch Company, to their MOU.
The East Kaweah GSA has managed to add Stone Corral Irrigation District, Ivanhoe Irrigation District, Exeter Irrigation District, Lewis Creek Water District, Lindsay/Strathmore Irrigation District, and the City of Lindsay, to their MOU.
GSA must be fully formed by June of next year. And not only must the agencies be formed and accepted by the DWR, the agencies the cover the sub-basin must provide a collaboration agreement that satisfies sustainability.