MEETING NOTES: Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa board members question best approach for new groundwater plans required by the state

January 16, 2024
Sonia Lemus, freelance for SJV Water
by Sonia Lemus, freelance for SJV Water
CVP: Central Valley Project. CVC: Cross Valley Canal. KCWA SWP: Kern County Water Agency, State Water Project.
Sonia Lemus, freelance for SJV Water
Sonia Lemus, freelance for SJV Water

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* “Meeting Notes” is a new feature focused on Kern County water districts, funded through a grant from the James B. McClatchy Foundation. Please consider supporting SJV Water to continue this important coverage.

Meeting: Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa board of directors

Date: January 10, 2024

Agenda and Packet: CLICK HERE

Major topic: Updates on Kern Subbasin 

Background: The 22 separate entities in the Kern subbasin are working on a groundwater sustainability plan that will be accepted by the state Water Resources Control Board after the region’s initial plan was deemed inadequate.

The Water Board is the enforcement arm of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) which mandates critically overdrafted areas bring aquifers into balance by 2040.

A hearing to determine if the Kern subbasin should be put on probation, meaning the Water Board would implement its own groundwater pumping plan for Kern, is scheduled for January 2025.

Kern water managers are still deciding how many groundwater plans to submit.

Report: Sheridan Nicholas, Engineer Manager for Wheeler Ridge, gave a report from the South of Kern River Groundwater Sustainability Agencies executive committee meeting.

He said that the Water Board’s review of the neighboring Tulare Lake subbasin’s plan shows the state board would not allow a “good actor” carve-out if the region submitted a single plan.

A “good actor” is described under SGMA as a groundwater agency “that demonstrates compliance with the sustainability goal for the subbasin.” 

The hope was that even if one or two groundwater agencies in a subbasin failed to achieve sustainability, other agencies that were in compliance would be exempt from probation.

Nicholas explained that some of the Kern subbasin entities had been counting on this good actor provision. 

But nuances of how the Water Board will handle re-submitted groundwater plans aren’t entirely clear, as Nicholas reported.

He said that during the state Water Board’s December 19 meeting, board members asked staff if the good actor clause could apply to individual groundwater agencies even if the region submitted a single plan. Nicholas said they never provided a clear response.

Nicholas added that Water Board staffers estimated it would take three months to review a single groundwater plan, four months for two plans and five months for three plans.

This adds to the Kern subbasin’s quandary of how many plans to submit. Some options under consideration are submitting one plan, or each entity submitting separate plans, but all having the same information. 

How to attend: Wheeler Ridge meets at 8 a.m. on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at its office, 12109 Hwy 166, or online at

Sonia Lemus, freelance for SJV Water

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