Farmersville approves support for water conservation grant

The Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District submitted a grant application for the Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program, garnering support from the Farmersville City Council

FARMERSVILLE – Parts of the Kaweah Subbasin may soon shift from agricultural use to something more sustainable.

During their March 28 meeting the Farmersville City Council approved mayor Paul Boyer to sign a letter in support of a grant application from the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District for a state program that would repurpose parcels of agricultural land in an effort to conserve groundwater. 

The conservation district – located in Farmersville – submitted their grant application to the California Department of Conservation for the Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program on Feb. 22. If approved, the program would repurpose parcels of agricultural land throughout the Kaweah Subbasin in order to reduce the area’s reliance on groundwater. Repurposed land would be put towards solar installations, wildlife habitats, groundwater recharge basins and other environmentally beneficial uses. 

“We’re looking for groundwater recharge habitat options– and whether  there are any landowners that don’t have enough groundwater to farm, and would they like to create one of these projects?” said Aaron Faukda, interim general manager of the Mid-Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency and general manager of the Tulare Irrigation District. 

If the grant application is approved, Fakuda said, future projects for repurposed land will be identified and interested landowners will then be solicited. 

“The letter shows support for the grant,” councilmember Gregorio Gomez said. “And as a city in the basin, we would benefit from it, ultimately, if something’s built.”

The program is funded by the state’s 2021-2022 budget, which appropriated $50 million to fund sustainability projects that reduce groundwater use, repurpose agricultural land and provide habitats for wildlife. The funding requires that the program prioritizes disadvantaged communities, or communities with a median household income less than 80% of the statewide average. 

According to 2020 census data, Farmersville qualifies economically as a severely disadvantaged community with a median household income of $44,286 compared to the state’s $78,672.

“We recognize the critical status of water resources in the Kaweah Subbasin and the need to reduce dependence on groundwater,” Boyer’s letter reads. “One of the tools the Kaweah Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agencies have envisioned to achieve this reduction is the repurposing of some lands toward other uses than traditional production agriculture.”

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