Farmers Frustrated Over SGMA

CA Department of Water Resources Rolls Out SGMA Regulations at Meeting

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The California Department of Water Resources held a recent workshop in Clovis, CA, to lay out the key components and regulations for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, known as SGMA. It’s thought that SGMA could forever change the face of agriculture in the central San Joaquin Valley, as it will limit the amount of groundwater that can be pumped.

turlock irrigation canal
If surface water was available for growers, the SGMA law would not have been created.

This entire approach of the Department of Water Resources is not sitting well with most farmers. Keith Freitas, who farms lemons on the east side of Fresno County, was at that recent workshop. “How can you call a program fair, but the stakeholders you bring to the table, before they enter the room to negotiate the deal, you cut their legs off?” Freitas asked.

“That’s basically what we have. We have a foot race here, but our legs have been cut off before the race even starts,” he said

And here’s the problem – there’s six deadly sins: lowering ground water levels, reducing ground water storage, increasing sea water intrusion, causing unreasonable water quality degradation, causing land subsidence and depleting surface water supplies that would have a significant and unreasonable adverse impact on beneficial uses of the surface water.

“The reason there’s six deadly sins is ’cause they’re all about the sins of the farmer. Not one of those sins is environmental,” Freitas said. “You think about it. We already have a subsidence and they know it, they don’t blame the environmentalists for subsidence, they blame farming.”

Farmers feel that if environmental water restrictions were not in place, there would be no overdraft of ground water or subsidence.

“How do you think we’re going to sustain overdraft pumping,” asked Freitas, “if they don’t have surface water to recharge the ground basin?”

“My perspective is that like Westlands Water District, who decided to turn down the twin tunnels – that decision was made I think in parallel to the overall consensus of farmers saying that if it’s going to be this way, if these are the rules that you’re going to set and these are the game rules, then we have no choice but to fight back,” Freitas said.

Salinas Valley SGMA Agency Progresses

Salinas Valley SGMA Agency Development Makes Headway

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) empowers local agencies to adopt groundwater management plans that are customized to the resources and needs of their communities. All such designated groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) in the State’s high- and medium-priority groundwater basins and subbasins must be identified by June 30, 2017.

 

A GSA is responsible for developing and implementing a groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) to meet the sustainability goal of the basin to ensure that it is operated within its sustainable yield, without causing undesirable results. The GSP Emergency Regulations for evaluating GSPs, the implementation of GSPs, and coordination agreements were adopted by DWR and approved by the California Water Commission on May 18, 2016.

 

“We’re coming down to the wire pretty quickly,” commented Norm Groot, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau in Salinas. “We’re moving forward with our SGMA implementation and moving closer to a proposal for our groundwater sustainability agency. We hope to have something presentable to the public entities sometime this fall.”

 

“We are meeting with stakeholders in the Valley and hopefully we can move forward with some of the solidification of the proposals and get into the nitty-gritty details of how to work that particular agency through the process,” Groot continued. “We have options to either take an agency that we have here in our county and rework it legislatively, or perhaps create a brand new agency. It just depends on the complexities of that particular issue based on the proposal that we come up with,” said Groot.

 

Groot noted local agricultural leaders have proposals on the table and various different options are under consideration. “The complexity of reworking an existing agency through a legislative process is rather daunting,” explained Groot. “The complexity of creating a new agency from the scratch is also very daunting and probably very expensive.”

 

Certainly any of these proposals under scrutiny will not be approved overnight. “It’s going to take some thought; some time, effort, and energy; and definitely some money to do,” said Groot.


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