Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to footer

Author: Rebecca Quist

McMullin Area GSA Pursues Grant for Water Marketing Study and Groundwater Credit System

The McMullin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA) is planning to submit a grant application to the United States Bureau of Reclamation for a Water Marketing Strategy Study.  The Study will involve a Water Marketing Study and development of a Groundwater Credit System.

The Water Marketing Study will include interagency outreach efforts to study, coordinate and plan for future surface water transfers.  Topics addressed will include hydrologic studies to identify the likely frequency and quantity of possible transfers, pricing and economic impact studies, legal and water rights studies, and infrastructure evaluations.

The study will also develop a Groundwater Credit System whereby landowners that do not use all of their groundwater allocation in the future can bank, sell or trade it to other landowners.  Topics investigated will include legal issues, pricing options, economic values of local water, socioeconomic impacts, groundwater level impacts, project monitoring, and specific rules and regulations for implementing the program.

Both of these programs will help to expand lines of communication, improve water reliability, improve water flexibility, reduce dependency on groundwater, and reduce future water conflicts.

The application will be due on July 17, 2018 and up to $200,000 is available to applicants.

 

Proposition 218 Election Passes, Keeps SGMA Implementation Local

The McMullin Area GSA Board successfully passed the Proposition 218 Election to adopt a $19/acre property-related fee in accordance with Water Code section 10730(c). Two valid protests were submitted to the GSA in opposition to the proposed fee that will be levied on landowners within the GSA. A majority protest was needed for the Election to fail.

The $19 per acre fee will fund GSA administration and activities related to planning and implementing local projects aimed at achieving State mandated sustainability. The nearest deadline is completion of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) by January 2020. Passing the election to fund this effort is a critical success for local implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The McMullin Area GSA Board is committed to retaining local control over SGMA implementation, where landowner dollars are utilized most efficiently and beneficially.

The fee will be collected by the County of Fresno from all parcel owners within the McMullin Area GSA boundaries, excluding parcels of 2 acres or less that are assumed to be de minimus extractors of groundwater under SGMA. Parcels of 2 acres or less were excluded from the Election after the official rate study revealed the cost associated with billing outweighs potential funds received.

You can use the following DWR tool to determine if your property lies within the boundaries of the McMullin Area GSA: DWR GSA Map Tool

Proposition 218 is a Constitutional Initiative approved by the voters of California in November 1996. It requires new or increased fees and assessments be approved by affected landowners.

Consultants Propose GSP Project Concepts for McMullin Area

At the May 2nd Board Meeting, technical consultants Provost & Pritchard presented a comprehensive list of potential Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) project concepts for mitigating groundwater overdraft in the Raisin City Water District and McMullin Area GSA. The consultants actively sought public participation and input on the proposed concepts to help prioritize those most favored.

A score granted based on specified criteria will prioritize projects from a technical perspective. The higher the score, the more favorable the project based on the following criteria:

  • Areas of Favorable Recharge (For example, areas of hard pan are likely to receive a lower score on this criteria)
  • Land Use
  • Annual Cost per Acre-Foot
  • Land Owners
  • Project Time to Implement
  • Water Supply/Water Rights
  • Yield
  • Environmental/Regulatory
  • Project Outside of GSA
  • Number of Cooperating Agencies

The consultants presented 37 potential project concepts within five broad project categories: Conjunctive Use (the combined use of surface water and groundwater), Surface Water, Land Management, Water Conservation, and Other. All projects discussed have the ability to mitigate groundwater overdraft, but selecting those to pursue is pending Board and public input on high and low priority measures.

Presented were a number of Conjunctive Use projects, including solutions such as intentional flood irrigation or groundwater recharge in dedicated basins and grower reservoirs. Surface Water projects range from developing surface water storage to more innovative solutions, for instance internal surface water trading amongst growers in the McMullin Area GSA. Land Management solutions include crop conversion to lower water use crops, or landowners selling land but retaining groundwater rights.

Public comment expressed desires for the pursuance of least-cost project options; inquiry surrounded the possibility of incentive programs for projects that would entail voluntary adjustments in landowner water-use practices, such as purposeful flood irrigation for recharge.

Using the scoring criteria in conjunction with landowner feedback, the consultants are working to identify creative solutions that lessen the burden of reaching mandated sustainability as they move toward developing a more detailed project roadmap.

Technical Consultant Outlines Monitoring Network Density and Methodologies for Groundwater Level Stabilization

At the April 5 Board meeting, McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) technical consultants Provost & Pritchard provided an update on Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) progress. The presentation included current breadth of the groundwater level monitoring network and necessary improvements in the network to reach required network density. The consultants also covered potential methodologies for reaching groundwater level stabilization, an element of GSP sustainable management criteria.

GSP development progress outlined below.

MONITORING NETWORK

The purpose of the monitoring network discussed is specific to groundwater level measurement. The map below indicates with a blue dot actively monitored wells within the McMullin Area (outlined in red) that offer historical data on groundwater levels.

Although the map indicates a high density of groundwater level monitoring wells, to qualify for the monitoring network the well must be accompanied by a Well Completion Report. A Well Completion Report details construction information such as depth, perforations, and date established. A total of 9 wells currently qualify within the McMullin Area GSA, but 20-30 additional monitoring wells are needed to satisfy the necessary well density for the network. The map below indicates qualifying wells within the GSA.

Potential actions to fill the data gap includes one or more of the following: 1) Obtain additional Well Completion Reports for existing wells; 2) Video wells in absence of Well Completion Reports to obtain necessary construction information; 3) Establish new dedicated monitoring wells. Completion of the monitoring network density is projected for 2030.

GROUNDWATER LEVEL STABILIZATION

As a part of its sustainable management criteria, SGMA requires groundwater levels stabilize between 2020 and 2040. Groundwater level stabilization success is measured by maintaining the “measurable objective”, a specified groundwater level established by the GSA and approved by DWR.

Measurable objective: average maintained groundwater level over the long-term. Must be met by 2040. Success metric of groundwater level stabilization

Minimum threshold: the lowest possible groundwater level allowed in the worst case scenario. Level cannot cause an “undesirable result” and thus cannot be an arbitrary number. Undesirable results are defined by the GSA and approved by DWR in line with DWR’s suggested Best Management Practices.

In the report, Provost & Pritchard outlined potential methodologies to establish the measurable objective and minimum threshold groundwater levels. The methodologies presented rely on three sustainable criteria variables: rate of groundwater decline, rate of mitigation, and operational flexibility. Each sustainable criteria variable can be determined a number of ways, and once determined are used in relationship with one another to establish a methodology for setting and reaching the measurable objective to achieve groundwater level stabilization.

Rate of groundwater decline is the rate at which groundwater levels have declined over a set period of time, and can be determined using one of three frameworks:

  1. Look at last 20 years, or
  2. Look at worst 20 years, or
  3. Look at hydrologic average period

Rate of mitigation is the rate at which improvements towards the measurable objective are made, and can be determined one of three ways:

  1. Constant (small, equal improvements each year), or
  2. Phased (slow at first with increased rate of progress over time), or
  3. Deferred mitigation (no progress until last 5 years; not recommended, unlikely to be accepted by DWR)

Operational Flexibility is the range of fluctuation in groundwater level allowed that still maintains the measurable objective average, taking into consideration dry versus wet years. The lowest range level of operational flexibility allowed is equal to the minimum threshold. The range of flexibility can be determined one of three ways:

  1. Recent drought
  2. Other smaller drought
  3. Conjunctive use operations

The graph below illustrates the sustainability criteria variables and their relationship to the measurable objective and minimum threshold.

Provost & Pritchard recommends determining groundwater decline from the framework of the last 20 years, establishing phased rate mitigation, and setting operational flexibility using the recent drought. This methodology considers the most favorable and realistic conditions for the McMullin Area GSA stakeholders without comprising compliance with DWR’s guidelines.

Fee Study Report Adopted by the Board, McMullin Area GSA moves forward with Proposition 218 Election

At the Special Board Meeting Wednesday, April 11th, McMullin Area GSA consultant Alison Lechowicz of Lechowicz + Tseng Municipal Consultants presented a Fee Study Report for adoption by the Board. Successful adoption of the Report signals approval to conduct a Proposition 218 Election as a means to secure McMullin Area GSA funding. Funding is needed to cover the costs associated with the GSA, including costs to administer the new agency, prepare and develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan, and develop groundwater projects.

The Board approved hiring the rate consultant at the March 7th board meeting to conduct the Report as mandated by Proposition 218. The Fee Study ensures that calculated fees are based on the reasonable cost of providing service, in this case the GSA’s annual budget costs required to implement SGMA, and that fees proportionally recover costs from ratepayers. The five-year budget spanning fiscal years 2019-2023 was used to calculate the proportional per/acre fee, considered a property-related water service charge.

The proposed fee rate adopted by the Board of Directors is $19/acre. Absence of a majority protest in opposition to the fee signals landowner approval for the Board to adopt and levy $19/acre on said landowners within the boundaries of the McMullin Area GSA.

Failure to adopt the proposed fee will result in loss of local control over implementing SGMA, and powers to implement the law will fall back to the State Water Resources Control Board. Local implementation by the McMullin GSA is the least cost option that carries the most benefits for the community of landowners within its boundaries.

A public hearing will be held on June 6th, 2018 at 2:00 pm at the Kerman Community Center, 15101 W Kearney Blvd., Kerman, CA 93630.

For more information regarding the Proposition 218 Election, State Intervention, and to review resources, visit our Proposition 218 Groundwater Fee webpage.

Translate »