The Department of Water Resources has already put a number of groundwater sustainability plans up on its website for public comment.
The public has until April 15 to comment on the first batch.
Included in this initial group are some plans that have already generated controversy, such as the joint plan for the Tulare Lake subbasin, which covers most of Kings County.
Though the plan was adopted by all five Groundwater Sustainability Agencies within the subbasin, the DWR website notes it does not have a coordination agreement, a requirement under the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
It remains to be seen if DWR will deem the plan adequate. If not, that could begin the “probationary status” process conducted by the State Water Resources Control Board.
If a basin is placed on probation, the state could determine how much landowners can pump and charge fees of $300 per well and $40 per acre foot pumped.
Probation has been the pointy end of the SGMA stick that most water managers have worked to avoid.
Some members of the Tulare Lake subbasin GSAs that worked on the plan approved it despite misgivings that it did not go far enough to address groundwater overdraft in the area.
The plan allows for up to 6 more feet of subsidence beneath Lemoore and Corcoran, which has already had to raise its levees because of recent subsidence. And it allows for groundwater levels to drop up to 100 feet in some areas.
The plan also doesn’t include a list of well-defined projects for how water managers plan to either reduce groundwater demand or recharge the aquifer with imported water. Most projects are only listed as “potential” and the plan itself acknowledges that specific actions will be taken only after the state gives the plan a thumbs up.
“I think DWR will be taking a hard look at this,” said Steve Jackson, a board member on the Southwest Kings GSA, in an earlier interview. “I think we’ll get some pushback.”
Doug Verboon, a board member of the South Fork Kings GSA and Kings County Supervisor, agreed.
“It’s not strong enough,” he said shortly before the plan was submitted to the state. “But at least we’re all talking now.”