Should the state take over groundwater management in Kings County? The clock is ticking to have a say

December 7, 2023
Lisa McEwen, SJV Water
by Lisa McEwen, SJV Water
Lisa McEwen, SJV Water
Lisa McEwen, SJV Water

FOR MORE INFO

Slides from the workshops and a recording of the staff presentation are available on the State Water Board’s Tulare Lake Subbasin webpage

Instructions on how to submit comments electronically, by hand delivery, or by mail are available in the public notice.

TO SEND COMMENTS

Persons interested in submitting written comments on the probationary notice or draft staff report are encouraged to submit electronic comments. All written comments must be received no later than December 11, 2023, at 12:00 noon. Please use the subject line: “Comments – Tulare Lake Subbasin.”

Electronic Comments:

Written comments may be submitted electronically via email in pdf format (if less than 15 megabytes in total size) to SGMA-TulareLake@waterboards.ca.gov. 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 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
December 11, 2023. All hand-delivered submittals must arrive and be date and timestamped prior to December 11, 2023, at 12:00 noon. Couriers delivering hard copies of comment letters must check-in with lobby security personnel who will contact the Clerk to the Board at (916) 341-5611.

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Members of the public have just a few more days to let the state know whether they think groundwater management in Kings County should be taken over by the State Water Resources Control Board.

A draft report by Water Board staff is recommending the Tulare Lake subbasin, which covers Kings County, be put on probation under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

That could have serious consequences, such as imposing strict pumping allotments, fees and fines on area farmers.

Interested persons have until noon on Monday, Dec. 11, to share their thoughts on the issue. Comments will be incorporated into a final draft report presented at a hearing April 16, 2024 

“No decision has been made yet about whether Tulare Lake will be designated as a probationary basin; the comment period on the staff report and the later public hearing are key opportunities for people to make their voices heard,” Eric Oppenheimer, chief deputy director for the State Water Board, is quoted in an Oct. 12 press release.

Tulare Lake is the first of six San Joaquin Valley subbasins facing possible state intervention under SGMA. At public workshops held in November, Water Board staff and some of the five-member board heard oral comments from water managers, farmers and community action groups, though feedback initially was scarce.

Tulare Lake’s groundwater  sustainability agencies (GSAs) were twice cited by the Department of Water Resources for deficiencies in its groundwater sustainability plan including continued land sinking, known as subsidence, and anticipated impacts to domestic well levels and drinking water quality. 

The inadequate determination booted Tulare Lake to the Water Board, the enforcement arm of SGMA.

Water Board staff concurred with DWR’s determinations and has recommended the subbasin be placed on probation. 

The board will consider the report and the public’s input before making a determination at a hearing on April 16, 2024. If it rules in favor of probation, most groundwater pumpers would be required to report their groundwater usage and pay state fees 90 days following the onset of probation. 

In the meantime, the five GSAs overseeing the Tulare Lake subbasin would have at least a year to achieve a viable sustainability plan, at which point the board could terminate probation.

As the guinea pig of sorts, all eyes are on Tulare Lake, with GSA managers and technical consultants watching the process carefully. 

Other subbasins facing possible state intervention in 2024 include Tule and Kaweah, which cover the valley portion of Tulare County; the entire valley portion of Kern County; Delta-Mendota which stretches up the western side of the valley and includes portions of Madera, Fresno, Merced and Stanislaus counties;  and Chowchilla in the northwestern corner of Madera County. 

The  Water Board hearing on the Tulare Lake subbasin will be held on April 16, 2024, at 9:30 a.m. in the California Environmental Protection Agency Headquarters Building in downtown Sacramento. The public may attend in person or online.

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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