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Author: Breanna Hardy

First-Ever California On-Farm Recharge grower program launches in MAGSA

On November 10, MAGSA launched On-Farm Recharge University the first-ever on-farm recharge grower program in California! On-Farm Recharge University (OFR-U) will consist of six value-packed in-person workshops, field trips, and opportunities for site visits and one-on-one office hours where growers will get support developing an OFR plan customized for their farms. Phil Bachand with Bachand & Associates is leading the technical effort. The course will also include guest speakers from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, UC Cooperative Extension, UC Davis, Berkeley Lab, and more.

MAGSA’s inaugural cohort (Cohort Zero) includes almost 20 participants. Cohort Zero members are primarily growers whose farms are located near the new proposed canal alignment, the McMullin On-Farm Flood Capture Expansion Project. Growers will leave this course with the knowledge and tools they need to implement On-Farm Recharge practices with confidence.

OFR-University’s Cohort Zero will run through the spring of 2023. MAGSA plans to host several subsequent cohorts in the future,and will extend the opportunity to the greater MAGSA landowner base.

MAGSA continues to pursue grant funding to reduce cost of meters and telemetry equipment for landowners

The McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA) is working on a $2.8 million grant application to the Bureau of Reclamation. If awarded, the grant would pay for more than 50% of cost of electromagnetic meters, telemetry, installation, and the first year of data reporting from the field.

To supplement the remaining cost of meters, telemetry, and installation, a second application is being prepared for a state-funded grant. If awarded, MAGSA would receive nearly a direct match of funds for landowners to cover the remaining cost of installing meters and telemetry. MAGSA continues to pursue grant funding for its stakeholders to ensure the cost of groundwater sustainability measures does not fall entirely on landowners. Receiving both grants could cover the cost of purchasing and installing approximately 1,000 electromagnetic meters and telemetry on wells in the area.

MAGSA’s General Manager, Matt Hurley, has met with a grant writer to ensure best results in pursuing and receiving grant funding for future groundwater sustainability projects.

MAGSA’s NRCS EQIP WaterSMART grant, one of the agency’s recent grant awards, is in its early stages of providing financial support to MAGSA growers. Unlike other NRCS EQIP grants, which are not typically limited to boundary-specific applicants, this funding pool of $1 million is set aside specifically for MAGSA landowners and guarantees the grant money will stay within the GSA boundaries.

MAGSA Features: Michael Naito

Michael Naito has long been accustomed to sustainable farming, but now he’s chasing even more smart irrigation tools to increase efficiency.

Michael alternates between drip and flood irrigation and is open to incorporating more precise irrigation strategies when watering his permanent crops with technology’s help. Implementing smart irrigation tools will give him more specific water use data on a particular field and crop type, he said. While most growers generally know what their evapotranspiration rate is, using smart irrigation tools can zero in on precipitation efficiency and water timing. Getting the target right on those things is important, but it differs depending on crop type, he said.

When the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) passed in 2014, California was tasked with forming Groundwater Sustainability Agencies to meet groundwater sustainability by 2040 at the local level. Michael Naito, owner of Naito Farms in Madera is playing an active role in that sustainability effort, and he encourages fellow growers to do the same.

Meters and telemetry are a surefire way to accurately track water use and can help achieve Michael’s goal of efficiency. MAGSA is aggressively seeking funding to help cover the costs to implement these tools on wells in the area. One current grant opportunity is MAGSA’s NRCS EQIP WaterSMART Initative grant. If awarded, landowners could receive funding toward the cost of meters, telemetry, and other water conservation projects. MAGSA was awarded $1 million annually for another four years specifically for MAGSA landowners.

“It really is a growers-first approach,” Michael said. “MAGSA has made it as easy as possible to apply.”

The agency has created an EQIP Grant Application Guide to walk MAGSA growers step by step through the application process. The Guide includes a pathway to success recommending the most seamless application process possible for growers to be considered in the current funding cycle, with a deadline of December 9th to apply. 

Meters and telemetry have helped many growers manage water and crops more effectively by saving water. The biggest benefit is to the grower because they know how much water they’re using at any time for any crop.

Michael said he’s never seen an EQIP grant dedicated to a specific region — meaning, funding will stay within MAGSA boundaries without outside competition. MAGSA growers have a better chance of being funded because the money stays local. MAGSA has supported its growers by hosting EQIP Application Drop-Off Events in Kerman, where applicants can consult with NRCS soil conservationists about their farm operations and prospective projects that can receive funding.

Grant funding will help offset the cost of meters if growers choose to include those as projects on their NRCS EQIP applications. Water meters are placed on wells to monitor water use, and can become costly depending on how many wells a landowner has. The grant funding alleviates that burden.

Applicants who are not selected for funding this year can reapply in future cycles. For those who are not eligible for EQIP funding (read the application guide to learn about eligibility requirements), MAGSA is seeking alternative funding sources, including grants, to financially support growers installing the equipment.

NRCS staff have consulted several growers at the EQIP Application Drop-Off Events, answering personalized questions, and helping fill out forms if necessary. There is one final Drop-Off Event scheduled for Friday, November 18 from 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM at the Kerman Community Center.

“It isn’t hard to fill out the application. You don’t have to go far from home, you fill it out, and you’re done,” Naito said.

MAGSA has laid a strong foundation with landowners and depends on grower engagement in decision-making and outreach. Compliance with SGMA can be challenging, but Michael said MAGSA’s goal is to keep people farming and continue to invest in groundwater sustainability projects that benefit the GSA landowners, residents, and community.

First EQIP applications submitted ahead of December 9 deadline

According to the USDA, “While NRCS accepts applications for [EQIP] programs year-round, interested applicants should apply no later than December 9, 2022, for the first application cutoff period.”

MAGSA has hosted a series of NRCS EQIP WaterSMART application drop-off events in Kerman for MAGSA landowners to receive consultation on their EQIP grant applications. MAGSA’s last Application Drop-Off Event is taking place on November 18 from 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at the Kerman Community Center. Landowners can drop in at any point during this time to meet with a NRCS soil conservationist and drop off their application directly in Kerman. RSVP for the November 18 Drop-Off event HERE.

See what a Drop-Off event is like in the video (left). You can also find MAGSA’s EQIP Application Guide and more helpful resources at mcmullinarea.org/eqip.

MAGSA Features series launches with Michael Naito

MAGSA launched a new feature series highlighting groundwater sustainability through the voices of growers, experts, and leaders. In the first MAGSA Features, Michael Naito, owner of Naito Farms, discusses smart irrigation and the future of MAGSA’s groundwater sustainability efforts. Michael discussed how MAGSA benefits from its growers-first approach to achieving groundwater sustainability by 2040. Read the full article here.

MAGSA celebrates California Water Professionals Appreciation Week

Matt Hurley, General Manager, MAGSA

At the helm of every successful organization is a visionary leader. Matt Hurley, MAGSA’s General Manager, brings a determined focus on leading the region to sustainability under SGMA while improving the lives of the constituents the organization serves. And he does it all with a smile and cheery attitude!

“Prioritizing the interests of the growers and residents MAGSA serves is vital to our success. We are asking a lot of folks when it comes to achieving balanced levels of groundwater by 2040 under SGMA. But we try to get creative and make sure there’s value added for them too,” he said

Rather than immediately cut back on water demand, MAGSA is focused on leading growers through innovative projects that bring surface water to an area that has historically been 100% groundwater dependent. Thanks to the McMullin On-Farm Flood Capture Expansion Project, opportunities will open for growers to receive water from a canal, something new to the area.

Along with the arrival of surface water will come the opportunity to implement sustainability practices like On-Farm Recharge. The introduction of a new university-style course tailored to MAGSA growers, “OFR-University”, is launching this fall to help growers implement these groundwater recharge practices. This is just one small example of MAGSA’s dedication to add value to people living within the service area, and it’s all thanks to its people-first leader!

Randy Hopkins, Chief Strategic Officer, Principal Engineer, Provost & Pritchard

The Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) has already started implementation, thanks to water professionals like Randy Hopkins, Chief Strategic Officer and Principal Engineer at Provost & Pritchard! Randy is a visionary leader, and he’s primarily focusing on planning and developing projects to help connect MAGSA to a variety of water sources. This creates the ability to bring in surface water when it’s available.

“Sustainable water management is the key to sustainable agriculture and healthy communities,” he said.

Not only is Randy a key leader in GSP implementation, but also in executing the McMullin On-Farm Flood Capture Expansion project and the Aquaterra Water Bank.

Implementing the GSP is a huge undertaking that requires developing a significant about of infrastructure over the next few years. While challenging, it’s the most rewarding aspect of Randy’s job. Developing infrastructure means being fully dedicated to putting tools in place for MAGSA to sustainably manage water supplies for the benefit of residents, growers, and our region.

Lynn Groundwater, Senior Engineer, Provost & Pritchard

This Water Professionals Week we’re celebrating a collaborative leader, Lynn Groundwater, Senior Engineer at Provost & Pritchard! Implementing the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) for MAGSA is no small task, but Lynn plays a key role in doing so. She helps monitor the sustainable management criteria, projects, and management actions. She’s currently helping with projects that would provide MAGSA flexibility to recharge surface water when available and construct surface water facilities as outlined in the GSP. She is an integral part of the McMullin On-Farm Flood Capture Expansion project and the Aquaterra Water Bank.

“It is rewarding to work with growers and members of the MAGSA community to collaborate on the MAGSA projects and for implementation of the GSP,” she said.

Working on a tight schedule is challenging, but it’s rewarding work to help provide the opportunity to use surface water within MAGSA.  Thank you to our hardworking engineers who are paving the road to sustainability within MAGSA!

Lindsey Sciacca, Assistant Engineer, Provost & Pritchard

Behind every basin, every sustainability goal, and groundwater conservation effort is an engineer who dedicates time and lots of math to make it come to life! This Water Professionals Week we’d like to give a shoutout to Lindsey Sciacca, Assistant Engineer at Provost & Pritchard! He is an assistant project manager and project engineer at Provost & Pritchard for the McMullin On-Farm Flood Capture Expansion Project.

“It takes an entire team to succeed in the work we do for the McMullin Expansion project and I wouldn’t be able to be nearly as successful in my own work without the support of the rest of the team,” he said.

As an assistant project manager and project engineer, he is responsible for running hydraulic calculations, working on drawings, and coordinating with several other engineers, manufacturers, and utility companies.

Lindsey is a determined leader and keeps track of project schedules so that sustainability goals are met in a timely manner.

The McMullin On-Farm Flood Capture Expansion Project is the largest and most involved project he has worked on thus far, and the teamwork behind it keeps the ball rolling. This project could not be done without every hand on board!

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