GSAs close to boundary resolution
By Paul Myers
tulare county – The battle over the Kaweah sub-basin is heading into its final phase. Since the East Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency (East Kaweah) pushed the pause button on progress by intentionally overlapping their boundaries with the Greater Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency (Greater Kaweah), both agencies were forced to the table via an ad hoc committee in January. In their latest progress the East Kaweah passed their map on Monday, March 27, with some concessions and changes. Where Exeter and Woodlake were both encompassed in the East Kaweah’s first map, their latest one chose both cities carved out but it does add areas southeast and southwest of Woodlake which were considered County white areas.
Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District General Manager Mark Larsen, who heads up the Greater Kaweah said that those were the only significant changes to the map, aside from the resolution of overlap in Exeter and Woodlake. And since the East Kaweah Board of Directors passed the map on March 27, Larsen said that it is now up to the Greater Kaweah Board of Directors to pass it at their meeting on April 10.
“I’m hoping that within the month [we can settle on a map] and get this behind us,” Larsen said.
Lindmore Irrigation District general manager Mike Hagman, who heads up the East Kaweah had similar sentiments. After incorporating the overlap into their map, the Exeter Irrigation District who is a member of the East Kaweah tried convincing the City of Exeter to move from the Greater Kaweah to the East Kaweah. And despite the Exeter Irrigation District’s effort to convey that future surface water needs for the City might be complicated if they are in separate GSAs, the City elected to stay where they were.
According to Exeter city manager Randy Groom, if the City was in need of surface water the infrastructure alone would be its biggest hurdle. Groom said that in order to receive surface water they would need to build a plant to treat the water worth millions of dollars and the City does not have it. Or the City would need to purchase enough property for a water basin to pour the water into and let it percolate into the aquifer. The project would look something similar to the cooperative project between the City of Visalia and the Tulare Irrigation District along Mineral King and just north of Highway 198 near McAuliff Street.
But the East Kaweah’s chances of gathering Exeter or Woodlake may have been doomed from the beginning. Neither city wanted to join the GSA, and Groom went so far as to call the intentional overlap “a hostile takeover.”
Hagman said that at this point he wants to have a map and move on, even without Exeter or Woodlake. And with the State imposed June 30 deadline to have GSAs settled with clear cut boundaries; it is in both GSAs and all parties’ best interest to have the map settled.
“It appears there is willingness to clear the boundaries and get this done,” stated Groom in an interview last week. “We don’t want the State to take over this thing so it needs to happen now.”
The next step in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) saga after having all GSAs approved by June 30 of this year, is to create a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). And because of the three GSAs covering the Kaweah sub-basin, all three will have to engage in a collaborative agreement where sustainable yield of groundwater is defined and approved. GSPs are not expected to be completed by June 30 of 2020, in which GSAs will be charged with implementing their plans.