MEETING NOTES: Tulare County Water Commissioners take stock of 2023, set goals for 2024

January 9, 2024
Lisa McEwen, SJV Water
by Lisa McEwen, SJV Water
Lisa McEwen, SJV Water
Lisa McEwen, SJV Water

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Meeting: Tulare County Water Commission 

Date: January 8, 2024


Board packet: CLICK HERE 

Main Topics: Results of 2023 Tulare County Water Commission Priorities, discussion to establish 2024 priorities. 

The Tulare County Water Commission is an advisory body to the Tulare County Board of Supervisors. It examines a wide variety of water issues that impact Tulare County. Its members represent the county’s five districts, and work as water managers, elected officials and community advocates representing agriculture, cities and disadvantaged communities. 

At its first meeting of the year, the commission reviewed its accomplishments in 2023 and began setting priorities for 2024.

Denise England, Grants and Resource Manager for Tulare County Resource Management Agency, helps carry out the commission’s directives. She provided an overview of results for 2023. 

  • Consolidating Small Water and Sewer Systems — Tulare County RMA is in its second year as administrator of the East Orosi Community Services District, which provides drinking water to 932 residents. State funding has stabilized a chronic safe drinking water issue. 
  • Funding has been identified for private domestic drinking water wells that need to tie into a larger system. Stantec, an engineering firm, is acting as administrator for the Teviston system in southern Tulare County.
  • Implementation of Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) — England said the commission needed to provide more focus for this goal in 2024. 

She noted that two of the three subbasins in Tulare County — Tule and Kaweah  — are preparing for a hearing on the potential of probation under the State Water Resources Control Board. 

Tule’s hearing is slated for September 2024 and Kaweah is in November 2024. 

Commissioner Rogelio Caudillo, general manager at Eastern Tulare Groundwater Sustainability Agency, said the GSA meets every six weeks with members of the state Water Board staff. 

The goal is to have updated groundwater plan materials ready by March 2024 for state Water Board staff to have enough time to review before their hearing date. 

Discussion of goals for 2024:

  • Jessi Snyder, director of community development at Self-Help Enterprises, said 2023’s successes provide an opportunity to build further results. 

“I would love for us to facilitate the expansion and ramping up of funding opportunities for the operation and maintenance of small water systems,” she said. 

Additionally, she would like to see the county engage more regularly with regional water boards to create a designated fund for cleanup and abatement of wastewater systems. 

“Wastewater systems can apply for upgrades to their existing treatment plants all day, every day, and they don’t get anywhere because they don’t achieve the level of priority that they would need in order to access the small amount of funding that is available,” she said. “There will be emergencies, there are emergencies, and we need an established fund to help address that.” 

  • Regarding SGMA, Snyder also stated that it has been discouraging to see the struggles in the Tulare Lake Subbasin (in Kings County) which will go before the state Water Board in April 2024. She would like the commission to do whatever is necessary to support passage of groundwater plans for Kaweah and Tule.
    • Commissioner Eric Quinley asked that the commission keep infrastructure such as the Friant-Kern Canal construction and repairs at the forefront, addressing the core issue of subsidence and its underlying causes.
    • Commissioner Caudillo encouraged the commission to follow the flow of Multi-Benefit Land Repurposing Program (MLRP) funding that is coming into the county, especially for Kaweah and Tule Subbasins. 
    • Commissioner Tricia Stever Blattler, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau, suggested that as MLRP funding grows, the commission should hear regularly from the funded partners, including how much farmland is being converted, and the anticipated economic impacts on the region. Caudillo pointed out that researchers at UC Merced are creating an economic analysis for Tule Subbasin.
  • Snyder said it is important to keep the Forest Management Funding and Legislation on the radar. 

“Tulare County has some extraordinary forest resources and the health of the upper watershed is absolutely critical to everyone,” she said. HR 2928, known as Save our Sequoias, is in committee but its future is unclear with the recent departure of its champion, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield). 

  • Commissioners agreed that they would provide written feedback to England before the next meeting to help continue defining priorities.

How to attend: The Tulare County Water Commission meets on the 2nd Monday of every month at 3 p.m. unless otherwise noticed. Meetings are held at the Board of Supervisors chambers, 2800 W. Burrel Ave., Visalia, CA 93291. The next meeting will be Monday, Feb. 12, 2024.

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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