By Elizabeth Jonasson
Today, the California Department of Conservation (Department of Conservation) announced that Westlands Water District Groundwater Sustainability Agency (Westlands GSA) was awarded a grant through the Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program (MLRP). The Westlands GSA serves as a Groundwater Sustainability Agency for the Westside Subbasin (Subbasin), a critically over-drafted basin in Fresno and Kings Counties. As part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act’s goals to mitigate and improve groundwater overdraft, the MLRP program aims to repurpose agricultural land to reduce reliance on groundwater while ensuring the voices and needs of marginalized communities are included in the process.
Recognizing the importance of finding ways to repurpose agricultural land that maximizes community benefits and minimizes the impacts of a reduction in economic activity, Westlands GSA partnered with Sequoia Riverlands Trust, Linguistica Interpreting and Translation, CivicWell, the Leap Institute, and Vista Consulting. These organizations are well-versed and experienced in community empowerment, job training, outreach and education, habitat restoration, and project organization for this effort and will help to support the program’s goals of achieving equitable groundwater sustainability.
“Choosing to partner with local Community Benefit Organizations and agencies who have directly served the community throughout the years speaks volumes about the intent to prioritize meaningful community participation and input.” Reyna Rodriguez, Owner, Linguistica Interpreting and Translation
Alongside these trusted community partners, over the next 3.5 years, Westlands GSA will bring together broad community voices to develop and commence implementation of a multi-benefit land repurposing plan while simultaneously mitigating the effects of agricultural job loss through job training.
“Investing in priority populations on the west side of the Valley is critical in the advancement of climate resiliency and equity. The opportunity to train and certify local farmworkers, under-employed and unemployed residents will create jobs, save homeowners money, reduce greenhouse gasses, sequester carbon, and empower the local economy,” said Mayor Rey Leon, City of Huron, and Chief Executive Officer, The Leap Institute.
The program will assist the Westlands GSA to identify and put into practice long-term opportunities to repurpose agricultural lands, cut groundwater use, reduce subsidence, improve groundwater supply, avoid undesirable results as defined by the Westside Groundwater Sustainability Plan, and provide benefits to disadvantaged communities.
“Westlands has a long history of repurposing land through our solar developments to ambitious groundwater recharge programs and this grant gives us the opportunity to build upon those efforts and develop and implement a Subbasin-wide land repurposing program while helping improve the quality of life for those who live in the impacted communities,” said Allison Febbo, General Manager, Westlands Water District. “We look forward to rolling up our sleeves with our partners to develop a comprehensive resident-informed plan to improve communities, economic wellbeing, water supply, habitat, and climate benefits.”