Last chance for residents to comment in writing on the possibility of probation for the Tule subbasin

April 30, 2024
Lisa McEwen, SJV Water
by Lisa McEwen, SJV Water
Construction on the Friant-Kern Canal shows a new canal being laid out next to the existing canal, which has sunk due to overpumping groundwater in the region. SOURCE: Friant Water Authority
Lisa McEwen, SJV Water
Lisa McEwen, SJV Water


The state Water Resources Control Board staff will consider all comments on the draft staff report received by noon Monday, May 7, 2024. All written comments must be received no later than May 7, 2024, at 12:00 noon.

Please use the subject line: “Comments – Tule Subbasin.”

Electronic Comments:

Written comments may be submitted electronically via email in pdf format (if less than 15 megabytes in total size) to

If the file is greater than 15 megabytes in size, the written comments may be submitted by fax at
(916) 341-5620, in multiple emails, by mail, or by hand delivery.

Mail/Hand Delivery:
Comments submitted by mail or hand delivery must be addressed as follows:
Courtney Tyler, Clerk to the Board
State Water Resources Control Board
1001 I Street, 24th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814-0100 (hand delivery) P.O. Box 100, Sacramento, CA 95812-2000 (mail)

Mail must be received (not postmarked) at the State Water Board office by
May 7, 2024.

All hand-delivered submittals must arrive and be date and timestamped prior to May 7, 2024, at 12:00 noon. Couriers delivering hard copies of comment letters must check in with lobby front desk personnel who will contact the Clerk to the Board at (916) 341-5611.

The following documents are available for review:

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Residents in southern Tulare County have a final chance to share their thoughts in writing with the state Water Resources Control Board on whether the region should go on groundwater probation. But they need to get their comments to the board by noon May 7.

Water Board staff is recommending the region be put on probation, according to a draft report

Probation could lead to state bureaucrats setting pumping allocations.

That is the stick the Water Board is hoping will prod local groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) to adequately address depleted aquifers, drinking water quality, dewatered domestic wells and most especially subsidence, or sinking land. 

The Tule subbasin is the second of six San Joaquin Valley subbasins to be recommended for probation as the state zeroes in on the multiple negative effects of depleted aquifers under the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). 

On April 16, the Water Board voted unanimously to place the Tulare Lake subbasin, which covers Kings County, on probation. That designation will require growers to register their wells at $300 each and pay $20 per acre-foot of water extracted starting July 15. Groundwater managers have a year to work with Water Board staff to come up with an adequate plan that would get the region off probation and back under local control

Subsidence was a leading factor in the Water Board’s decision to put the Kings County region on probation.

Similarly, in the draft report by Water Board staff, subsidence is noted as a specific problem in the Tule subbasin, where sinking has already severely damaged the Friant-Kern Canal.

Overpumping has reduced the canal’s carrying capacity by 60 percent. Even a new $300 million parallel canal meant to boost capacity is already sinking at a rate higher than anticipated – up to one foot a year. That action prompted a lawsuit by the Friant Water Authority against the Eastern Tule GSA in February.

The Water Board had received two written comments as of April 30 in addition to the oral comments voiced at two previous workshops, which drew more than 100 people representing drinking water advocates, agriculture, water agencies and municipal governments.

The public can view submissions after May 7, when they are posted to the board’s File Transfer Protocol (FTP) website at

Edward Ortiz, Water Board public affairs officer, said comments are compiled, reviewed and summarized for the board. For the recent Tulare Lake Subbasin hearing, “staff provided a summary of the comments and how they were considered in the final staff report as Appendix C,” he wrote in an email. 

Commenting on the report is a chance to explain how a probationary designation could affect the people, economy and agricultural interests in a subbasin that stretches across a large swath  of southern Tulare County’s flatlands, encompassing Porterville and other disadvantaged communities such as Allensworth and Woodville.

Farmer Tom Barcellos said he encourages the public to share their opinions.

“It’s a challenging situation, and I hope and pray that comments come from people who have some common sense and understanding of the ramifications of probation,” he said. “If some of these permanent crops get reduced because of SGMA, there’s less work, less opportunity for people to make a living and they will move on.” 

Barcellos said he employs about 20 people year-round, with an extra 10 to 15 people as seasonal laborers.

As a board member of Lower Tule GSA, Barcellos hopes the Water Board acknowledges ongoing efforts toward sustainability, including land fallowing and recharge projects. He also questions fees landowners will have to pay if probation comes to pass. Money that would go toward new projects would instead be directed to state administrative costs.

“Let us keep our money to put it where we need it.”

The five-member Water Board is the enforcement arm of SGMA, legislation passed in 2014 that mandates groundwater basins reach sustainability by 2040. The Tule subbasin probationary hearing is Tuesday, Sept. 17 in Sacramento.

Next in line for a probation hearing is the Kaweah Subbasin in November, followed by Kern in January 2025. Chowchilla and Delta-Mendota will be heard later in 2025.

Lisa McEwen, SJV Water

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.


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