State doles out grants to groundwater agencies – except Madera

March 14, 2020
by Lois Henry
Lois Henry

Madera subbasin

7  Groundwater Sustainability Agencies – Madera County, Madera City, Madera Irrigation District, Madera Water District, Gravelly Ford, Root Creek and New Stone

4 Groundwater Sustainability Plans – 1 filed jointly by Madera county, city, irrigation and water district, 3 filed individually by Gravelly Ford, Root Creek and New Stone

 

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The consequences of not complying with the state’s new groundwater law came home to roost in Madera County, which got a big-fat zero in grant funding from the state for lack of a coordination agreement, the state announced Friday.

Madera County had requested $500,000 to help with well installation for groundwater monitoring on behalf of groundwater sustainability agencies in the Madera subbasin.

As recently as Jan. 24, 2020, Department of Water Resources staff recommended awarding the full amount.

That got the kibosh after one of Madera’s seven GSAs refused to sign a coordination agreement, required under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

“…the coordination agreement for the GSPs was missing one signature and was not complete. Therefore, (state) staff does not recommend additional awards for Subbasin,” DWR staff noted as its reason for zero allocation to GSAs in the Madera subbasin.

Coordination agreements bind GSAs to use the same accounting methods and data for determining water budgets, how much water is coming into the subbasin and how much is being pumped out.

New Stone GSA, a tiny agency that covers about 4,000 acres within the Madera subbasin, felt it had 4,500 acre feet more water than the other GSAs would give it credit for and refused to sign the coordination agreement.

GSAs throughout California have had similar disputes but found ways around them in order to avoid the situation Madera is now in.

The DWR had recommended full funding for Madera’s request as recently as Jan. 24, 2020, when the draft awards were released.

Then the subbasin’s GSPs were submitted Jan. 31 without the required agreement and, poof, there went the grant.

The state also notified Madera subbasin GSAs it was evaluating whether to hand the issue off to the State Water Resources Control Board, SGMA’s enforcement arm.

Under a worst-case scenario, the State Water Board could put the Madera subbasin into “probationary status” where the state could dictate pumping amounts and charge landowners fees of $300 per well and $40 per acre foot pumped.

Several Madera GSA representatives told SJV Water, which broke the story late last month, that they were working to rectify the situation before it came to probationary status.

Meanwhile, DWR  gave out $47 million in grants to more than 50 agencies to aid in creation of groundwater sustainability plans and projects.

The money came from Proposition 68,  $46.25 million, and Proposition 1, $1.2 million.

In 2022, DWR plans to open another round applications for $88 million in grant funding.

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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