MEETING NOTES: North Kern concerned the subbasin’s revamped groundwater plan – now seven plans – won’t pass muster with the state

May 22, 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: North Kern Water Storage District board of directors.

Date: May 22, 2024

Agenda and board packet: CLICK HERE

Main topic: Submission of a revamped groundwater sustainability plan for the Kern subbasin to the state Water Resources Control Board to avoid probation.

Background: Two previous groundwater plans for the Kern subbasin were rejected by the state as inadequate to protect the region’s water table. 

One of the main criticisms of those previous plans was the region’s groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) were fragmented in how they defined, monitored and responded to groundwater issues. The subbasin must be coordinated, according to earlier state feedback.

The Water Board has scheduled a probationary hearing for the region in January 2025. Probation is the first step toward a possible state takeover of local pumping.

Kern groundwater managers have recrafted the region’s plan in hopes of staving off a probationary hearing. The goal is to have the plan approved by all 20 groundwater sustainability agencies in Kern and submit it by the end of this month.

However, the plan has split into seven plans as several GSAs opted to submit their own plan as a failsafe in hopes of being exempted from  probation under the “good actor” clause of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

The extra plan submissions are all identical to the main submission but will include “blue pages” highlighting the submitter GSA’s specific programs to improve aquifer health. 

Discussion: North Kern board members were concerned by the “blue pages” being submitted by other GSAs as they originally were supposed to be about 10 pages per GSA and are now up to 20 pages.

Furthermore, no one else has seen what’s actually in the blue pages. There was a great deal of worry among North Kern board members that the blue pages could include something contradictory to the overarching groundwater plan.

”It is not a coordinated plan at all,” stated North Kern Vice President Joel Ackerknecht.

Action: Despite concerns, the board approved the final draft amendments to the revamped groundwater plan and authorized its submission to the Water Board.

White lands: Lands within the subbasin but not in any water district’s boundaries are commonly referred to as white lands. Because they’re not in a water district, they don’t pay land assessments to buy and import water, making them almost entirely dependent on groundwater.

Still, these non-districted lands must be included managed and accounted for in the subbasin’s groundwater plan. There are about 210,000 non-districted lands in the Kern subbasin.

Until recently, non-districted lands came under the purview of the Kern County Water Agency, which has considered withdrawing its jurisdictional coverage, preferring management be shared by the subbasin.

In order to maintain coverage of those lands, the former Kern Groundwater Authority is being restructured through a new joint powers agreement to become the Kern Non-Districted Lands Authority whose sole purpose will be to manage white lands. 

The subbasin’s GSAs must now approve the restated joint powers agreement. However, North Kern board members noted that the Henry Miller GSA has opted out of participating.

Action: North Kern approved the restated joint powers agreement. 

How to attend: North Kern meets at 7 a.m. on the 3rd Tuesday of each month. You can join via teleconference calling (877) 567‐8582 using the Phone Conference ID: 944 706 059#

Sonia Lemus, freelance for 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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