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MAGSA awarded $10 million grant to expand innovative On-Farm Recharge project

The McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA) has been awarded a $10 million grant by the State Water Resources Control Board through the Prop 1 Stormwater Grant Program to expand the existing McMullin On-Farm Recharge (OFR) Project located near Helm in Fresno County.  The Project is identified in MAGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan and is a key element in a vision developed by MAGSA to achieve groundwater sustainability under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) through innovative approaches in groundwater banking and crediting.

The grant builds off previous awards for large-scale OFR implementation:  a $5M Prop 1E grant award from California Department of Water Resources to the Kings River Conservation District in 2012, and a $7M grant award through the NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to Raisin City Water District in 2018, both requiring substantial private cost share. 

The McMullin Projects represent the first-of-its-kind OFR projects in California and nationally. The Projects are 1) constructing necessary infrastructure to capture and convey storm waters and floodwaters to vast private farm acreage and 2) implementing farm-scale infrastructure and practices in partnership with farmers and landowners to infiltrate captured storm waters and floodwaters on those farmlands.  Through this approach, the McMullin Projects are helping to reduce the ever-increasing threat of regional flood risks and, at the same time, increasing groundwater recharge. 

The first McMullin Project was designed to divert and recharge 150 cubic feet per second of storm flow and floodwater from the Kings River across 5,000 acres of farmland.  This most recently awarded Project’s goal is to more than double the Kings River diversion rate and the total acreage enlisted for recharge. 

This expanded OFR project will implement an experimental data collection program to monitor performance and further develop OFR with greater emphasis on topics such as better integration of OFR with farming practices, protecting groundwater quality, managing costs, and improving groundwater and farmer sustainability.  Information garnered from this Project is important as California begins developing the Flood-Managed Aquifer Recharge (FloodMAR) program as a critical element of California’s water future.  It is also important for all of agriculture in developing approaches to sustain water resources while staying viable. 

Support letters from MAGSA landowners were critical for this award, and all the previous awarded McMullin Projects, demonstrating continued local unified commitment towards greater sustainability.  MAGSA was one of 24 projects funded through the Prop 1 Storm Water Grant Program. The $10M award was one of two awarded at the highest level.  Sixty-seven applications were submitted, totaling $300M in grant requests. Twenty-four projects were awarded, totaling $98 million.

Ideally, the most effective Project will be conducted through a partnership with Raisin City Water District who will provide matching funds through their (Federal) 2018 NRCS-RCPP award.  Prop 1 (State) authorized $7.545 billion in general obligation bonds for water projects including surface and groundwater storage, ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration, and drinking water protection. The State Water Resources Control Board administers Prop 1 funds.  This would certainly be a model for State and Federal cooperation. 

Combined, the projects will deliver $22 Million in benefits to the area and contribute substantially to the solutions required to offset the overdraft of the last century in the GSA and within the Kings Subbasin.  Each of the individual Project(s) are supported by the continuous assistance of both Bachand and Associates and Provost and Pritchard Engineers. MAGSA’s General Manager Matt Hurley commented that “We have one of the most competent and cohesive professional, outreach and landowner collaborations on this team.  We are in truly in great hands as we develop the solutions for MAGSA’s future. We can’t wait to get this Project moving forward!”

MAGSA is hitting the ground running in 2021!

Vision Event sets the stage for the new year

48 individuals attended MAGSA’s 2021 Vision Event on January 20th and heard from MAGSA’s General Manager and technical team on the top priorities for 2021. If you were unable to attend the event, click the video below to watch the recording and learn how to secure a thriving future this new year!

Gathering data on wells to achieve sustainability goals

Groundwater data measured by wells is a key data component for monitoring MAGSA’s sustainability goals. The data is an important metric to measure impacts of future projects and management actions on groundwater levels within the agency boundary and ensures MAGSA can effectively defend accurate groundwater use on behalf of its landowners.

So far, MAGSA has received a Proposition 68 grant which funded a well monitoring video survey, the gathering of well construction information, and site visits. This year, MAGSA is planning to continue collecting well construction information and begin the three-year process of metering wells within MAGSA. You can join the list of landowners interested in receiving a monetary incentive for being an early adopter of meters!

Join the list of landowners interested in receiving an incentive to help cover the cost of meter equipment and installation:

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Study on groundwater credit and water marketing program will conclude this spring

MAGSA received a WaterSMART Bureau of Reclamation grant to conduct a study on a groundwater credit and surface water marketing program. While a water marketing program would entail a proactive strategy for bringing surface water into the area, a groundwater credit system focuses on allocating groundwater resources among landowners within the GSA. Under a groundwater credit system, landowners would be given a groundwater allocation to either keep, trade, or sell to other landowners within the GSA. A well-designed program would improve water use efficiency and provide flexibility for MAGSA landowners. The study will conclude this spring.

Over the last year, Geosyntec has led a team of skilled individuals from organizations across disciplines to consider how a water market might operate within MAGSA. MAGSA held three public workshops to discuss identified market concepts, requirements, trading structures, rules, monitoring, administration, and reporting. MAGSA has also conducted stakeholder interviews and received input on market components.

A final workshop will be held before the study concludes. Look out for further details. Recordings of past workshops can be found on MAGSA’s website.

Learn more about MAGSA’s vision for 2021 HERE.

Third water market study workshop will focus on market structure

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to participate in a MAGSA water market, join us for the January 27th water market study workshop. Landowners and interested stakeholders are encouraged to participate in this interactive workshop via Zoom.

Participants will hear from MAGSA’s General Manager, Matt Hurley, and the technical consulting team, who will present a project update as well as a couple of alternate scenarios describing how the market could be structured. The workshop will include a demonstration illustrating the differences between a “bulletin board” and “electronic clearinghouse” structure. Participants will have an opportunity to offer feedback on the market structure concepts as well as ask other questions regarding the study, which is currently underway.

The workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, January 27, 2021 from 4:00 – 6:00 PM. If you are interested in attending, watch this space or sign up for updates here. The workshop is part of a water market study funded through a WaterSMART grant awarded to MAGSA by the US Bureau of Reclamation.

Upcoming 2021 Vision Event – you’re invited!

Although 2020 was met with unique challenges, MAGSA’s team has continued to move forward meeting the great challenge of achieving groundwater sustainability for our landowners and stakeholders. There is still a lot more ground to cover in 2021 to reach our goal of reducing 10% of our overdraft (9,110 acre-feet) by 2025!

Join us for a 2021 Vision Event to recap on 2020’s progress and hear from MAGSA’s General Manager and technical team on the most pressing activities planned in 2021.

MAGSA’s resilient landowners and stakeholders are invited to learn how they can participate to secure a thriving future starting in the new year. All are welcome to join us for this event to kick off 2021.

The event is scheduled for Wednesday, January 20th from 4:00 – 5:00 PM via Zoom. A link will be shared closer to the event date.

Board adopts Groundwater Banking and Groundwater Export policies after second round of public review

The MAGSA Board unanimously adopted the Groundwater Banking and Groundwater Export policies at the December 9th meeting. The draft policies were available for public review and comment early September, with updated versions available for a second round of public review early November.

The Groundwater Export Policy clarifies and expands on the groundwater pumping restriction referenced in MAGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) as a management action to achieve sustainability. The policy will allow MAGSA to oversee, manage, and reasonably regulate groundwater extraction within its boundaries effectively and equitably. This includes groundwater pumping within MAGSA for any use outside of MAGSA.

The Water Banking Policy establishes guidelines and principles for MAGSA on water banking within its service area, outlining measures MAGSA may implement for its oversight of any water banking activities within its boundaries.

The final policies are available on the website policy page.

MAGSA will continue its work to develop policies that will guide the agency in its sustainability efforts in the years to come. Signing up for the MAGSA email list is the fastest way to stay up to date on upcoming drafts available for review and comment. If you are not already on the list, sign up here!

MAGSA Video Provides Narrative for Achieving Sustainability

The McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA), in collaboration with J Comm, Inc., has created a visually engaging video highlighting MAGSA growers’ vision for achieving groundwater sustainability. The inspirational video features General Manager Matt Hurley and local MAGSA growers.

As MAGSA enters a new phase of SGMA implementation, landowners will need to begin adjusting practices to contribute to overall sustainability goals of the service area. It is not a job for any one landowner, rather it will require a concerted group effort by a cooperative landowner base. Learn how MAGSA growers are now taking responsibility for reaching sustainability.  Click HERE to view MAGSA’s video.

Water market study update

The water market study team is currently conducting stakeholder interviews, working to understand the perspective of individuals representative of MAGSA’s service area. Interviews are an opportunity for the study team to gather in depth feedback on preferences and perceptions for how a water market might be structured and will ultimately result in a water market design that fits the needs of MAGSA stakeholders and landowners. Once completed, the team will bring its findings to the Board for discussion.

The team is also working on developing varying water market options. The options look at different water supply scenarios such as groundwater allocation based on sustainable yield and potential surface water imports.

Stakeholders and landowners are encouraged to join the next Water Market Study workshop on Wednesday, October 21st from 4:00-6:00 PM. Check the website regularly for event updates.

Two draft policies released for stakeholder input

Two new draft policies were released for public and committee review at the September 2nd Board Meeting. The Groundwater Export and Water Banking policies are open for public comment until September 30th. Their proposed adoption date is October 7th.

The Groundwater Export Policy clarifies and expands on the groundwater pumping restriction referenced in MAGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) as a management action to achieve sustainability. The policy will allow MAGSA to oversee, manage, and reasonably regulate groundwater extraction within its boundaries effectively and equitably. This includes groundwater pumping within MAGSA for any use outside of MAGSA.

The Water Banking Policy establishes guidelines and principles for MAGSA on water banking within its service area. The policy outlines measures MAGSA may implement for its oversight of any water banking activities within its boundaries.

The draft policies can be reviewed and comments submitted via MAGSA’s Board Policy page. MAGSA stakeholders and landowners are encouraged to engage in this foundational aspect of the groundwater management process.

Board approves $19 fee rate, keeps eye on grant funding to accelerate project and management action development

The Board approved a fee of $19 per acre for Fiscal Year 2020-21 at their July 15th meeting. Based on 114,475 acres included under the property-related fee, this generates a projected revenue of $2,175,025 for agency administration, professional services, and project and program development to implement the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP), adopted in November 2019. In addition to MAGSA’s fee-based revenue, the agency will continue seeking additional funding for projects and management actions through grants.

Revenues collected from the fee cover the approved Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget expenses including agency administration and staff, GSP legal and litigation reserves, project development, and groundwater monitoring and implementation, among other technical and administrative expenses.

The $19 per acre fee is the maximum amount approved by MAGSA landowners in the Proposition 218 groundwater fee election passed in 2018. The fee is levied on all landowners within MAGSA via Fresno County tax bills, excluding parcels of 2 acres or less. This is the third budget year collecting the fee that has a 5-year lifespan.

Beyond fee revenues, MAGSA will continue applying for grant funding to accelerate implementation of specific projects and management actions outlined in its GSP. Recent grant awards like the US Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART grant to study a groundwater market, in addition to future grant opportunities, aim to leverage and extend the dollars of MAGSA landowners collected via the fee.

MAGSA is committed to implementing solutions tailored to the landowners and stakeholders it serves and will continue to provide updates on its activities. To stay informed, sign up for our interested persons email list here, and follow us on Twitter @McMullinAreaGSA.

Stakeholders encouraged to review and comment on draft groundwater data policy

The MAGSA Board reviewed the preliminary draft groundwater data policy at their July 15th Board Meeting, releasing the draft for public review by stakeholders and landowners, the Technical Advisory and Stakeholder Committees.

The draft groundwater data policy can be reviewed, and comments submitted via MAGSA’s Board Policy webpage.

The groundwater data policy outlines methodologies for MAGSA to receive data from landowners and respond to data requests that ensure the confidentiality of data is maintained. It is the intent of MAGSA to protect landowner data to the maximum extent possible, unless otherwise released with permission from an individual landowner.

For consideration, public comments should be submitted no later than August 5, 2020. The policy is currently scheduled to go before the Board for consideration and adoption September 2, 2020.

Board Policy Adoption Process

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