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SCWC_WaterCutsInfographic_Print Version[1]_Page_1SCWC_WaterCutsInfographic_Print Version[1]_Page_2Ag Council Provides Comments to DWR on Draft Groundwater Regulations

 

California Department of Water Resources
Attn: Lauren Bisnett, Public Affairs Office
P.O. Box 942836
Sacramento, CA 94236


Submitted Electronically

RE: Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan Emergency Regulations

Dear Ms. Bisnett:

Agricultural Council of California (Ag Council) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan Emergency Regulations (Draft Regulations). Ag Council represents approximately 15,000 farmers across California, ranging from small, farmer-owned businesses to some of the world’s best-known brands. As such, many of our member companies and their farmer owners will be regulated under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Ag Council has been engaged in discussions over SGMA since its inception and also currently participates in DWR’s Agricultural Advisory Group.

Ag Council values DWR’s transparency in its regulatory development process. DWR’s collaboration with stakeholders and other state agencies is prevalent throughout the draft regulations. Additionally, we thank DWR for allowing local control and jurisdiction over development of their groundwater plans. DWR has provided flexibility in many areas for localities to determine their future course with SGMA, and we support this draft regulation in this regard.

Ag Council has concerns with some areas in which DWR requires further obligations of localities than what was deemed necessary by SGMA. Many of these additional requirements will increase costs and draw out timelines of the regulation. Ag Council is hopeful that DWR will take the following issues into consideration when finalizing its regulations.

Cost

Ag Council urges DWR to minimize the cost of this regulation to the greatest extent possible. Reporting requirements of the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) are outlined in great detail, and it is evident that local agencies will need to hire technical experts and consultants to complete the paperwork in order to comply with the regulation. DWR should allow GSAs to use existing data and measurement tools to create and comply with their Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP). Requiring the development of new information or monitoring tools will significantly add to the cost of the regulation in an unnecessary way.

Furthermore, the draft regulations create a possible “Coordinating Agency,” as a sole point of contact with DWR for the purposes of SGMA. While it is not clear whether or not this is a requirement, it potentially creates an additional governmental agency in addition to the GSAs. DWR should grant flexibility to the localities to self-appoint a member or board to interact with DWR. There is no need for another agency to be created for the sole purpose of communicating with DWR when this could be handled by the GSAs.

Timing

Implementation of SGMA is on a very aggressive timeline. Ag Council understands the constraints DWR and localities are under to comply with the regulation. In the regulation, DWR requires GSPs to be submitted with an open, public comment period of 60 days, however, DWR has two years to approve the plans. If DWR does not approve the GSP and notifies a GSA at the end of two years, it could run into the timeframe in which the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has the obligation to intervene, by the time any corrective action is taken. Ag Council urges DWR to either notify GSAs earlier of potential noncompliance or create another notification process that does not conflict with SWRCB intervention. The ambitious timelines of SGMA may require tighter turn-around times for each of the regulatory agencies as well.

Additionally, Ag Council is concerned with the ability of GSPs to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). If there are projects within various GSPs that require getting through the CEQA process, timing of completion of these projects could conflict with the SWRCB intervention plans. Going through CEQA is not an expeditious process. Furthermore, the act of going through CEQA will greatly add to the cost of each of the plans.

Ag Council urges DWR to consider implications to local governments and minimize these issues as much as possible. Ag Council also encourages DWR to consider the following matters specific to the proposed regulations as it finalizes them.

352.4 Best Management Practices

SGMA does not require GSAs to adopt best management practices. If an agency chooses to do so, that should be within the discretion of that agency. So long as the GSA is meeting the requirements of SGMA through the development of its plans, meeting its milestones and eventually achieving sustainability within the required timeframes, the GSA should not be required to take on additional, potentially redundant, steps in order to fulfill its duties under SGMA. Best Management Practices should not be required as part of a GSP.

354.10 Notice and Communication

Ag Council urges DWR to request that measures be taken by local GSAs to conduct specific outreach to all groundwater users potentially impacted by SGMA within their GSP. These outreach efforts can be included in subsection (e) and implemented into the GSA’s communication plan.

 354.18 Water Budget

SGMA only requires water budgets for the use of coordination agreements between multiple GSAs. The draft regulations proposed by DWR require water budgets for each GSP. This is beyond the scope of SGMA and will greatly add to the overall cost and regulatory burden for each GSA. Furthermore, subsection (b) requires historical data and trends outlining the demand for surface water supply and how historical conditions impacted the basins. While historical information will be useful, it may not be available within all basins at this time.

354.22-§354.30 Introduction to Sustainable Management Criteria, Sustainability Goal, Undesirable Results, Minimum Thresholds, Measureable Objectives

Ag Council supports DWR’s allowance of GSAs to define terms and goals such as “undesirable results,” “minimum thresholds,” “sustainability goal,” and “measureable objectives” for each sustainable management plan. This allows the GSAs to have some flexibility to acknowledge differences in hydrology, land use plans and other regional conditions, while DWR provides parameters so that the terms are not too loosely defined.

354.44 Projects and Management Actions

This section outlines the items to be included in the description of the projects and management actions adopted to meet measurable objectives and prevent undesirable results. GSPs must outline plans and relevant timetables for completion. Contingency plans also must be developed in the event that groundwater basins do not adequately respond. However, nothing describes the process or what to expect should a project fail to get the permitting approved in a reasonable timeframe to ensure it is consistent with the requirements of the GSP.

If a certain project exceeds the regulatory timetable due to permitting issues, does this automatically trigger SWRCB intervention? Ag Council urges DWR to highlight steps GSAs should take if permitting projects becomes an issue within implementation of GSPs.

355.2 Department Review of Initial Adopted Plan

Subsection (e) states that DWR has two years to determine whether or not an initial GSP is adequate, conditionally adequate or inadequate. Ag Council is concerned that if DWR exercises its authority and waits the full two years to make this determination, the timetable is significantly shortened for SWRCB intervention. Therefore, a GSA could be operating under a GSP it thinks is adequate, but then learns the GSP is inadequate at a time when it may be too late to avoid SWRCB intervention. DWR should allow for a right to cure timeframe so GSAs have time to incorporate potential changes and resubmit the GSP for approval prior to SWRCB intervention.

354.34 Monitoring Network

Ag Council agrees that a GSP should not adversely impact a neighboring basin. However, a GSA should not have to speculate as to whether or not an adjacent basin will be able to meet a sustainability goal as highlighted in subsection (a)(5). There are likely too many factors beyond a neighboring GSAs understanding in order to make an adequate determination. If negative impacts are underway, the basins should coordinate to minimize or mitigate those impacts and provide notice to DWR of their plans.

355.4 Criteria for Plan Evaluation

This section highlights the parameter that will dictate whether or not a plan is adequate as well as DWR’s assessment criteria in determining whether the GSP is likely to achieve the sustainability goal for the basin. The terms in this section are not egregious, but there is significant information lacking. The draft regulations do not highlight the steps taken that lead to SWRCB intervention.

Ag Council requests that DWR highlight some of the following information in this section:

  • What specific actions will be taken to indicate that SWRCB is going to exercise its authority to intervene?
  • What type of notification will a GSA receive prior to SWRCB intervention?
  • How long is the SWRCB intervention process?
  • What are the estimated costs of SWRCB intervention?
  • What specific actions are needed in order to complete the SWRCB intervention process and allow GSA management of a regional area again?

Ag Council would welcome information on the SWRCB intervention process within the draft regulations. This would provide additional clarity to GSAs as to how DWR and SWRCB will interact and outline expectations relating to the intervention process so that localities can take the necessary steps to comply with SGMA and prevent SWRCB intervention.

Thank you for your time and consideration of our comments. If you have any specific questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at (916) 443-4887.

Sincerely,

Emily Rooney

President

 

Ag Council Comments on Safeguarding California Draft Plan

 

November 30, 2015

JR DeLaRosa
Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and Energy
California Natural Resources Agency
1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311
Sacramento, CA 95814

Subject: Draft Report, Safeguarding California: Implementing Action Plans

Dear Mr. DeLaRosa:

Thank you for the opportunity for Agricultural Council of California (Ag Council) to comment on the Draft Report entitled Safeguarding California: Implementing Actions Plans. As background, Ag Council is a member-supported organization advocating for more than 15,000 farmers across California, ranging from farmer-owned businesses to the world’s best-known brands.

Ag Council appreciates the sections included in the agricultural chapter of the Draft Report released in October 2015. The plan to help agriculture adapt to a changing climate and the disruptions farmers may experience is a positive first step toward understanding our vulnerabilities and boosting our resiliency.

The Draft Report states, “One of the most practical and cost effective methods for ensuring aquifers are sustainable into the future is utilizing on-farm groundwater recharge during months of heavy precipitation.” Ag Council agrees that groundwater recharge on agricultural lands is critical to ensuring long-term use of groundwater for multiple purposes and for future needs. However, we stress the importance of finding ways to incentivize this activity through streamlined permitting and/or cost recovery for famers who have to forgo crops for recharge projects.

The Draft Report also discusses the state’s responsibility under Prop 1 to fund the public benefits of water storage projects through the Water Storage Investment Plan. We support and look forward to the implementation of this effort, particularly as it relates to surface water projects, which have multiple benefits and provide flexibility to our water management system.

We appreciate your consideration and the opportunity to comment. Should you have any questions or need anything further from us, please feel contact Rachael O’Brien at (916) 443-4887 or via email at rachael@agcouncil.org.

Respectfully,

Emily Rooney
President

Ag Council Opposes Bill To Publicly Shame Commercial & Industrial Water & Energy Use

July 7, 2015

TO: Members, Senate Judiciary Committee

FROM:
Agricultural Council of California
American Planning Association
Automotive Specialty Products
Alliance
Building Owners and Managers Association of California
California Business Properties Association
California Chamber of Commerce
Chemical Industry Council of California
California Construction and Industrial Materials Association
California Farm Bureau Federation
California League of Food Processors
California Manufacturers and Technology Association
California Paint Council
California Restaurant Association
Consumer Specialty Products Association
Family Winemakers of California
Independent Energy Producers
International Council of Shopping Centers
NAIOP – Commercial Real Estate Development Association
National Federation of Independent Business
UnitedAg
Wine Institute

SUBJECT: AB 1520 (COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY) PUBLIC RECORDS
SET FOR HEARING – JULY 14, 2015
OPPOSE – AS AMENDED JULY 2, 2015

The California Chamber of Commerce and above listed organizations must OPPOSE AB 1520 (Committee on Judiciary) as amended July 2, 2015, which inappropriately makes industrial, institutional, and commercial water and energy use public information. It is an attempt to shame business under the guise of ensuring that large users are meeting conservation goals.

The current privacy protections for commercial industrial and institutional water and energy customers serve an important purpose. These protections are there to protect them from their competitors gaining information and knowledge regarding energy and water usage, which could be used to find out production capacity and other production knowledge for others in that same industry. Giving this information to the public serves no purpose. Without knowing how an industry uses water or energy and the regulatory requirements they operate under, the volume of usage is not useful and serves no purpose other than to exploit a business’ operation. Allowing this information to be made public will serve no purpose than to shame businesses who may be deemed as unfavorable to some and provide an avenue for protest.

In addition, current law also levels the playing field between customers of private investor owned utilities and utility customers of local agencies. In 1997, SB 448 (Sher), determined that utility usage information from local agencies was not public information. Yet, this bill is deliberately trying to overturn that, picking and choosing which information should remain private.

Most large commercial, industrial, and institutional users of water and energy pay based on volume they use. Under existing regulations, local water districts, for example, are able to determine if conservation goals have been met. If the conservation goal is not met, the local agency can impose fines of up to $10,000 per violation, and $500 per day thereafter for every day the violation continues to enforce compliance.

It is unclear how the information required by AB 1520 would help reduce water usage or energy consumption. For these reasons and others, we must OPPOSE AB 1520 (Committee on Judiciary).

cc: Jacque Roberts, Office of the Governor
Martha Guzman-Aceves, Office of the Governor
The Honorable Mark Stone, Chair, Assembly Committee on Judiciary Alison Merrilees, Assembly Judiciary Committee
Benjamin Palmer, Senate Judiciary Committee
Mike Petersen, Senate Republican Caucus
Senate Office of Floor Analyses
District Offices, Members, Senate Judiciary Committee

Ag Council Weighs-in on Groundwater Sustainability Draft Plan

June 1, 2015

Mark Cowin
Director
Department of Water Resources P.O. Box 942836
Sacramento, CA 94236
Attn: Lauren Bisnett

Dear Director Cowin,

On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) Groundwater Sustainability Program Draft Strategic Plan (Plan). We appreciate DWR’s outreach to the agricultural community and the creation of an Ag Advisory Group. This type of communication will assist all parties with working through some of the more complex issues related to implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

We are pleased with DWR’s transparency in its development of the regulations. The Plan is very clear in regards to explaining the authorities created for DWR’s engagement on the issue, highlighting the data used (and to be compiled) for creation of the various maps and the development of timelines that outline when to expect future developments of SGMA implementation. Additionally, DWR recognizes that many factors contribute to the current state of groundwater pumping throughout California. Specifically, page five states:

“Population growth, expansion of agricultural practices, allocation of water to environmental resources and restrictions to protect threatened species all have contributed to either increased water demand or decreased availability of surface water supplies in California. In response, many water users pump groundwater to offset the reduction in surface water supply.”

We agree with this assessment and underscore that all uses throughout the state create demands for groundwater. Due to these potentially competing interests, we are pleased that DWR further acknowledges the need for Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP) to be managed at the local level.

We appreciate the approach DWR has taken by establishing goals and parameters for localities, which dictate the implementation process. However, there are a handful of areas in which DWR proposes language that could be too binding and other areas that need further clarification.

KEY INTENDED OUTCOMES AND BENEFITS OF THE SUSTAINABLE GROUNDWATER MANAGEMENT ACT

Surface Water and Groundwater as “a Single Resource”
We support that DWR has recognized the need for the localities to have flexibility when developing and implementing the GSPs. In this regard, we are concerned with language on page 18 stating that surface water and groundwater are managed as “a Single Resource,” and will require local agencies to develop comprehensive water budgets. Given the diversity of the groundwater basins in this state, these prerequisites may or may not make sense in development of each and every GSP. There may be areas of the state with hydrologic conditions that require these practices, but others that do not. These decisions should be made at the local level in order to achieve the necessary flexibility noted by DWR.

Elimination of Long-term Groundwater Overdraft
Additionally, the total elimination of long-term groundwater overdraft is unrealistic. Even under the most successful GSPs with meaningful groundwater recharge programs, it is likely that California will experience prolonged drought in future years. Therefore, it would be more appropriate and feasible for DWR to acknowledge a more realistic objective of “Minimizing long-term groundwater overdraft,” as opposed to an unrealistic goal of the “Elimination of long-term groundwater overdraft.”

SUCCESS FACTORS

Oversight and Enforcement
Similarly, binding language is found on page 19. Regulatory oversight and enforcement for each Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) would likely look different. The verbiage under this bullet also appears to direct the GSA to implement groundwater adjudication plans as opposed to managing a basin. More permissive language acknowledging that enforcement would need to be consistent with implementation of the GSP would create a more logical approach and ensure that GSPs are fully administered at the local level.

Funding
We will work with DWR to seek public funds for the implementation of this regulation. Due to the diverse group of stakeholders putting pressure on the groundwater basins as stated in the Plan, a comprehensive funding approach is necessary. Agriculture has experienced numerous years of fee increases within programs administered by the State Water Resources Control Board and transparency is lacking at several different levels. Although we continue to work with the SWRCB to improve their fee process, we urge DWR to work to secure public funds, such as those that can be appropriated under Proposition 1, to avoid the unnecessary challenges many stakeholders have experienced in other fee based programs.

GROUNDWATER SUSTAINABILITY GOALS, OBJECTIVES, AND ACTIONS

Role of SWRCB
While this is a document drafted by DWR, it would be helpful if DWR or the SWRCB specifically outlines the process in which the SWRCB is obligated to intervene at the local level, the work to be completed, and the process for SWRCB to withdraw. We believe that localities egregiously violating the regulation should experience tougher enforcement, however, the way this regulation has been drafted has given too much flexibility for the SWRCB to intervene and participate in local plans without providing clear expectations for local agencies to avoid SWRCB intervention. The timeline titled “Key SGMA Milestones” offers some explanation of the role to be played by the SWRCB. However, the Plan should include a dedicated section clearly outlining the process in which the SWRCB intervenes and the requirements that must be met by a local agency in order for the SWRCB to withdraw.

Clarification Needed on Key SGMA Milestones Timeline
The timeline outlining the steps for submission and acceptance of a GSA and GSP is confusing. DWR is currently posting GSA notifications on its website. DWR must adopt regulations for evaluating and implementing GSPs (and alternatives) by June 1, 2016. By June 30, 2017, the SWRCB may hold a hearing to designate a basin as “probationary” if a GSA or alternative is not established. However, DWR does not “establish” the GSAs until that same date.

Under this proposed timeline, a locality that assumed it was an established GSA – because it was posted to DWR’s website – could start working on its GSP and then receive notice on June 30, 2017 that not only is it NOT an “established” GSA by DWR, but it is now also under probation by SWRCB. The SWRCB also adopts a fee schedule related to the costs of enforcement within this timeframe. This confusion could also lead to unforeseen penalties incurred by local agency. Therefore, we recommend that the probationary period for the SWRCB be delayed by at least six months after DWR establishes the GSAs to avoid this confusion.

DWR OBJECTIVES AND CORRESPONDING ACTIONS

Privacy
Throughout this and the preceding section, DWR states an “online information system” is critical to ensure “public transparency” and the need to make “information available to agencies and the public through a web-based information management system.” We are supportive of efficient means of information sharing, but urge DWR to continue to keep well log information confidential. Currently, well logs must be submitted to DWR and are available to appropriate public agencies, including GSAs, to manage groundwater. For example, counties, cities and water districts have access to the information for groundwater management purposes. Providing this data to the general public serves no beneficial purpose except to encourage litigation. In addition, public access to well logs could result in the release of sensitive business information that should otherwise be kept confidential. The Administration has recognized the negative impact litigation could have on the implementation of this regulation and providing private well log information to the public could bring these concerns to fruition.

Adjudications
The Plan states that basins managed under adjudication are required to submit their final judgment to DWR by April 1, 2016. There is legislation working through the Capitol at this time to improve the efficiency of the adjudication process. Given the strong bipartisan support this legislation has received so far, we urge DWR to either delete the date or include language that allows basins to be managed by future adjudications after the April 1, 2016 deadline.

Groundwater Recharge Projects
The Plan states that DWR will identify regulatory barriers and assist in removing those barriers for locally managed groundwater recharge projects. We support this effort. Without meaningful groundwater recharge, the State is simply regulating a diminishing resource without the tools necessary to bring it into balance.

RIGHT TO USE GROUNDWATER

Critical to SGMA is the provision that groundwater rights in California remain unchanged and are not determined by GSAs or GSPs. Given this, page 4 under “Groundwater in California” should include a recognition of the right to use groundwater.

In Conclusion
Water is a vital resource to agriculture as it is required to grow food. The industry has improved water use efficiencies over the last several decades and, with recent technology, agriculture will achieve further advancements.

However, given the current drought and lack of investment in water infrastructure, pressures will continue to grow on groundwater use from all users.. Going forward, we will continue to work with DWR and the SWRCB on implementation of SGMA, but we urge DWR and the SWRCB to continue to collaborate with other agencies on a statewide strategy to develop meaningful infrastructure that will provide the necessary storage and conveyance to meet California’s future demand for water.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to comment. We look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,
Agricultural Council of California
California Cattlemen’s Association
Western Growers

Ag Council Supports Measure to Streamline Groundwater Adjudications

 

 April 8, 2015

Agricultural Council of California
Almond Hullers and Processors Association
Association of California Egg Farmers
California Association of Wheat Growers
California Bean Shippers Association
California Cattlemen’s Association
California Chamber of Commerce
California Citrus Mutual
California Cotton Ginners Association
California Cotton Growers Association
California Dairies Inc.
California Farm Bureau Federation
California Fresh Fruit Association
California Grain and Feed Association
California Pear Growers Association
California Seed Association
California Tomato Growers Association
Pacific Egg and Poultry Association
Western Agricultural Processors Association
Western Growers Association

The Honorable Marc Levine
Chairman, Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife
State Capitol, Room 2141
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: AB 1390 (Alejo): Groundwater Adjudication —SUPPORT

Dear Mr. Chairman:

The above listed organizations support Assembly Bill 1390 (Alejo), which would add a new chapter to the Code of Civil Procedure making improvements to the judicial proceedings of comprehensive adjudications of groundwater rights in a basin.  These changes will reduce the burden of groundwater adjudications on both the courts and claimants without altering the law of groundwater rights and without disrupting the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act planning process.

When Governor Brown signed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act bill package last year, interest in improving the groundwater adjudication process was expressed by the Administration and authors of the bill package. In basins impacted by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, AB 1390 will work in conjunction with the Act to clarify groundwater rights in a basin, which may be important to the planning process, and allow the court to encourage the parties to cooperatively develop a groundwater sustainability plan pursuant to the Act to serve as the basis of a stipulated judgment setting forth a physical solution for management of the basin.

The goal of AB 1390 is to address the time sinks that occur in current groundwater adjudications by clarifying the processes that must be followed. Particular challenges exist in groundwater adjudications including determination of venue, identification of basin boundaries, disqualification of judges, notice and service of parties, discovery and ability of the parties to reach settlement.  This bill would reform procedural rules to improve the functioning of each of these areas by providing tools to the court and claimants to move more efficiently through the adjudication process, such as trial phasing, deadlines for disclosures of water usage and submission of written testimony and expert disclosures.

The bill would also facilitate and encourage the early settlement of groundwater adjudications by providing tools and opportunities for courts, claimants, and local groundwater management entities to develop solutions in a more timely manner.

In closing, we support AB 1390’s approach to addressing the time sinks in the current groundwater adjudication process by easing the burden on the courts and providing claimants with the most efficient resolution possible, all without impacting due process or changing California water law.

 

Cc:       The Honorable Luis Alejo
Members, Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee
Tina Cannon Leahy, Consultant, Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee
Steve McCarthy, Assembly Republican Caucus
Martha Guzman-Aceves, Office of the Governor

Summary of 2015 Drought Package

  • Over $1 billion for drought relief and infrastructure projects to make the state’s water infrastructure more resilient.
  • Acceleration of $267 million from Proposition 1 Water Bond funding for safe drinking water and water recycling from the Governor’s January budget proposal.
  • Acceleration of drought related expenditures from the Governor’s January budget proposal augmented by $31 million in targeted additional expenditures ($132 million total), including efforts to implement the Water Action Plan and provide direct assistance to workers and communities impacted by drought.
  • The additional $31 million in new targeted expenditure items which were not included in the Governor’s January budget proposal include the following:
    – $17 million in additional funding to support emergency food aid to drought impacted communities.
    – $4 million for emergency drinking water in disadvantaged communities.
    – $5 million to the Department of Water Resources to provide emergency drinking water support for small communities, including addressing private wells.
    – $1.4 million to the Department of Water Resources to increase advertising and public relations related to the Save Our Water campaign.
    – $2.8 million to the Department of Water Resources and Department of Fish and Wildlife for additional modeling support and species tracking in the Delta and greater Central Valley to support efficient management of the state’s water system.
    – $1 million to address critical infrastructure deficiencies at remote fire stations that have run out of    water.
  • Acceleration of $660 million from the Governor’s January budget proposal of Proposition 1e bond monies for flood protection in urban and rural areas to make the state’s infrastructure more resilient to climate change and flood events.

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Ag Council Speaks Out in Support of Flexibility in our Water System

At a February 18 workshop held by the State Water Resources Control Board (Board), Ag Council spoke out against action by the Board’s executive director to deny the portion of a petition that would allow state and federal agencies to increase pumping to drought-stricken communities. The executive director rejected that portion of the petition due to concerns about salmon and smelt impacts.

Ag Council asked the Board to reconsider the position taken by its executive director and instead requested that the Board support the petition as originally submitted by the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation so that water, however limited in quantity, can be beneficially used in agricultural and other areas in desperate need of water.

The original petition asked the Board to review Delta standards to allow for increased pumping, through operational flexibility in the management of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project, in order to send more water to areas hit hard by drought. Environmental protections would remain in place.

Over 300 individuals attended the workshop and many of those were farmworkers who rode busses for hours to express their support for the original petition and explain their plight given the ongoing drought.

A decision was not made on this matter at the February 18 workshop given that the forum was intended for public comment only. Ag Council will remain engaged in this issue on behalf of our members and will communicate any developments.

To read a recent SacBee editorial on this issue, click HERE.

Water is Key Topic at World Ag Expo Breakfast

On February 12, Ag Council held its Fourth Annual World Ag Expo Breakfast. Over 70 attendees gathered to hear California Water Commission Vice-Chair Joe Del Bosque and State Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) speak.

Del Bosque discussed the California Water Commission’s (CWC) role in the implementation of the water bond, which voters approved in November 2014. Del Bosque said, “We need to ensure that water is available when needed.”

California Water Commission Vice-Chair Joe Del Bosque speaks at Ag Council's World Ag Expo breakfast.

California Water Commission Vice-Chair Joe Del Bosque speaks at Ag Council’s World Ag Expo breakfast.

The CWC is responsible for developing regulations relating to the quantification and management of the public benefits for water storage projects and for selecting storage projects under the water bond through a competitive public process. Funding must go toward the public benefits portion of chosen projects.

When asked what the agriculture community should do at this time, Del Bosque said, “We need more people in agriculture engaged. The public’s involvement is going to be critical.”

The CWC will review public comments and collaborate with other agencies before finalizing regulations by December 2016.

During his remarks at the breakfast, Senator Vidak spoke about last year’s positive, bipartisan work on the water bond and also about the challenges as the groundwater bill was moving through the Legislature.

In 2015, Senator Vidak said he is looking forward to working with his Central Valley colleagues, both Democrat and Republican, as part of the newly launched Central Valley Caucus. He said, “The Caucus is trying to find more common ground.”

To view photos of the event on AgNet West’s website, click HERE.

Groundwater Forums Reveal Next Steps

DeeDee D'Adamo, board member with the State Water Resources Control Board speaking at the Groundwater Forum in Caruthers.

DeeDee D’Adamo, board member with the State Water Resources Control Board speaking at the Groundwater Forum in Caruthers.

With last year’s passage of the groundwater law, Ag Council has been taking a leadership role in outreach to the agencies writing the implementation rules.  Our staff has now shifted our priorities to help our members understand the law and make improvements where possible in the actual implementation process and remains engaged regarding potential legislation to make changes to the law.

The legislation comprises historic changes to California groundwater law. Ag Council held two Groundwater Forums in December to help members connect with key officials from the California Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board to better understand the law’s implications.

Ag Council member Campos Brothers Farms hosted the first forum, held on Dec. 4 in Caruthers.  Over 100 guests attended the forum to hear presentations by David Gutierrez, program manager of the Groundwater Sustainability Program at the Department of Water Resources (DWR)
and DeeDee D’Adamo, a member of the State Water Resources Control Board.
On Dec. 9, Ag Council held its second Groundwater Forum in Sacramento.  Steven Moore, member of the State Water Resources Control Board (Board), presented and David Gutierrez joined us once again.

Groundwater represents 40 percent of California’s water supply. Citing issues such as wells going dry, lack of groundwater recovery in some areas and subsidence in other areas, Gutierrez said the new groundwater measures “empower local agencies to manage groundwater sustainably.”  He added that, “DWR’s role is to make locals successful.”  Gutierrez said DWR efforts include the creation of technical and planning assistance to locals, in addition to financial assistance.

David Gutierrez, program manager of the Groundwater Sustainability Program, Department of Water Resources.

David Gutierrez, program manager of the Groundwater Sustainability Program, Department of Water Resources.

Gutierrez outlined four phases to implementation of the groundwater package. In phase one, the creation of governance areas—called Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs)—is mandated by June 30, 2017.  Many communities have already started the discussion to move forward on this initial governance requirement.

Phase two includes the development and adoption of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs).  The deadline for GSPs in high and medium priority groundwater basins in critical overdraft is Jan. 31, 2020.  GSPs for high and medium priority basins not considered to be in critical overdraft must be developed and adopted by Jan. 21, 2022.

Phase three is the early implementation of the GSPs beginning in 2020 for areas in critical overdraft and 2022 for other areas. Phase four, sustainable groundwater management, begins in the year 2040.

The state water bond, Proposition 1, included $100 million for sustainable groundwater management agencies.  In addition, GSAs have been provided broad fee, compliance and enforcement authorities.  GSAs can choose to assess fees, monitor groundwater pumping and levy fines for violations, among other actions.

In outlining next steps, Gutierrez said DWR is completing a Draft Strategic Plan and is working on outreach plans to ensure public input.  In addition, a Groundwater Information Center was developed with further information available (http://www.water.ca.gov/groundwater/).

D’Adamo discussed how our state groundwater resources are under stress and she added that the Board, like DWR, believes groundwater should be locally managed.

Over 100 guests attended Ag Council¹s Groundwater Forum held at Campos Brothers Farms in Caruthers.

Over 100 guests attended Ag Council¹s Groundwater Forum held at Campos Brothers Farms in Caruthers.

D’Adamo outlined what many call the state “backstop,” which is state intervention triggered by a specific failure to act by locals.  Under the groundwater law, the Board can designate a basin or sub-basin as “probationary” if:

  • By June 30, 2017 a GSA is not designated for the entire basin
  • By Jan. 31, 2020, no GSP is developed or the GSP is inadequate for basins in critical overdraft
  • By Jan. 31, 2022, in other basins, no GSP is developed or the GSP is inadequate and the basin is in long-term overdraft
  • By Jan. 31, 2025, DWR or the Board determines a GSP is inadequate and there are significant depletions of interconnected surface waters

The ag community is concerned about the scope of intervention that will potentially be imposed by the Board. This issue was raised at both Groundwater Forums. At the Dec. 9 Groundwater Forum, Moore said it is “not appropriate for the state to come in and manage groundwater basins,” adding it is “temporary, if needed.”

According to Moore, the Board’s view is that enforcement is needed because the state wants to prevent those who are not following the rules from gaining an economic advantage.  Moore said the Board is “not interested in micromanaging the process.”  D’Adamo added, “The Board is only stepping-in where there’s an undesirable result.  The Board has a lot on its plate and does not want to get involved unless necessary.”

Now that this historic legislation has passed, Ag Council is working to make sure key state officials understand the rights and protections needed to sustain our agricultural community.

 

Ag Council Opposes Fee Increases for Waste Discharge Permits

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