Letting GSAs or State Decide Sustainability

Who Decides What is Sustainable Pumping?

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Local groundwater sustainability agencies, also known as GSAs are quickly being developed to draw out specific plans on how to prevent groundwater overdraft in the areas of the state, particularly in the central San Joaquin Valley. It’s all part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) that could forever change the face of agriculture, as we know it today.

Keith Freitas farms lemons on the east side of Fresno County, and he knows of many farmers that are getting together to fight SGMA.

“They’re going to take it to the courts and the judicial. They’ll be filing injunctive orders,” Freitas said. “You’ve got perishable crops you’re dealing with, so the injunctions can come really quick, they can last for long time, and for many years. There’s a possibility the way this thing is structured legally, if we put a legal defense program together and a plan, the plan could push this thing out another 10, 15, 20 years.

And sustainable pumping is the linchpin of SGMA.

The local GSAs are formed to make your basin sustainable, and the state says the GSAs in control.

“Well, how could we be in control of our own sustainability if the states laying the ground rules and setting the criteria for what’s sustainable, and what’s not?” Freitas said.

So, if the Central Valley GSAs, for example say that they believe pumping water down to the 2600 foot level underground is sustainable, “Then suddenly the state’s going to say: ‘well, no, that’s not even close.’”

“You draft the aquifer down to a thousand feet, all the buttons and bells and whistles go off, and you’re no longer sustainable,” Freitas said. “Well, wait a minute. What happened to that we choose what’s sustainable?”

Kern County Ag Ranks Second in State, Fresno Drops to Third

Ruben J. Arroyo, Kern County Agricultural Commissioner reported the 2013 gross value of all agricultural commodities produced in the county was $6,769,855,590, according to the 2013 Kern County Agricultural Crop Report, representing an increase (6%) from the revised 2012 crop value ($6,352,061,100). Thus, Kern County ag ranks second in state, with Tulare ahead, and Fresno behind.

Kern County’s top five commodities for 2013 were Grapes, Almonds, Milk, Citrus and Cattle & Calves, which make up more than $4.6 Billion (68%) of the Total Value; with the top twenty commodities making up more than 94% of the Total Value. The 2013 Kern County Crop Report can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards website: www.kernag.com

Tulare County reported gross annual production in 2013 at $7.8 Billion, Fresno County, $6.4 Billion, and Monterey County, $4.38 Billion.

As predicted by many, including CaliforniaAgToday on July 15, 2014, Fresno County, long-time top ag county in the state—and in the nation—now ranks third in the state and has regressed in ag growth since 2011.

Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner, attributes much of the decrease to the water shortage, particularly exacerbated by a large part of the West Side being dependent on both state and federal surface water deliveries that have been curtailed by pumping restrictions due to the Endangered Species Act.