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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

MAGSA Board appoints new Chair and Vice Chair for annual term

The MAGSA Board unanimously moved to elect Directors Jeevan Singh and Jerry Rai as Chair and Vice Chair of the Board, respectively. Jeevan Singh represents Mid-Valley Water District on MAGSA’s Board, while Jerry Rai represents Raisin City Water District.

The motion to nominate a Mid-Valley District representative as Chair came in the spirit of cooperation between the member agencies; the position of Chair was previously held by former MAGSA Director Don Cameron representing Raisin City Water District.

According to MAGSA’s bylaws, the Chair and Vice Chair positions are to be elected for an annual term at the first regularly scheduled board meeting following July 1 of each year.

Meet MAGSA’s water market study team, a reflection of the multi-disciplinary approach required to design a water market

A team of skilled individuals from organizations across disciplines has been assembled by MAGSA’s water market study project lead Amer Hussain with Geosyntec. Innovative approaches to achieve sustainable water use within an area through the buying and selling of available supplies (or otherwise, establishing a workable water market), involves a multitude of considerations from the legal and political to the economic and hydrogeologic.

The dynamic team will work over the coming months to outline the fundamental components for establishing a groundwater market within MAGSA, identify a range of options for a market structure that is right for MAGSA, and analyze opportunities and constraints for surface water use within a yet to be determined groundwater only or surface-groundwater combined market.

We look forward to spending time with this highly qualified group as they dig into the nitty gritty of MAGSA water over the next year or so. The following information will provide some introduction to each of the team members that will better prepare us all to greet them as they “come aboard” to familiarize themselves with our area!

Amer Hussain, Project Manager, Geoysntec

Amer is a principal and California registered professional engineer with over 25 years of experience in the southern Central Valley. With Geosyntec consultants, Amer has been active in managing SGMA implementation with experience negotiating to locate additional water supply, developing conveyance improvement, and employing groundwater recharge. Amer also works with private landowners on SGMA response strategies.

“I think what makes this project unique is its innovative nature. Although certainly a topic of discussion in the water world, actual work on developing formal water markets within local agencies is still very new. MAGSA is really ahead of the curve when it comes to this type of water management under SGMA. And we are looking at SGMA not just from a GSA standpoint, but also how it affects the individual stakeholder and landowner. The stakeholder-oriented approach is what will ultimately result in a successful water market structure for MAGSA.”

Bob Anderson, Scoping and Strategy, Geosyntec

Bob is a senior principal and hydrogeologist with over 30 years of experience in groundwater resource planning. With Geosyntec, Bob leads the firm’s SGMA initiative. Their team works in several California basins including Tulare Lake, Tule, Borrego, Salina, Santa Ynez, Santa Clarita, East Bay, Vina, Wyandotte, and Sutter basins. He also conducted groundwater planning and agricultural water management assessments in Washington’s Columbia River Basin, where water markets and conjunctive groundwater/surface water management programs have been developing since the 1990’s. Bob brings a long-term perspective and technical knowledge directly applicable to MAGSA’s current study on groundwater allocation and water market structures.

“MAGSA’s challenges are unique to its groundwater management area and, like most water management problems, the solutions rely on sound science, stakeholder outreach, and a willingness to explore and compromise. The process takes time and this work will create a foundation, based on our team’s past experience in California and other regions, for a program tailored to fit MAGSA landowners. We think a groundwater market can be an important part of ensuring the success of SGMA here into the future.”

Kristin Reardon, Water Resources Engineer, Geosyntec

Kristen is a water resources engineer with over 20 years of experience specializing in studies to support decision-making for water resource managers. Her work has focused on floodwater protection and utilization through “FloodMAR,” Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge, a method in which surplus river flows are used to recharge groundwater supplies. Kristin has worked with irrigation districts in the San Joaquin Valley, the California Department of Water Resources, and the US Bureau of Reclamation and was a lead author of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan 2017 Update.

In addition to technical expertise, Kristen brings the valuable skill of communicating complex technical issues to diverse audiences.

Duncan MacEwan, Economics, ERA Economics

Duncan is a principal economist and managing partner at ERA Economics specializing in water resources and agricultural economics. Duncan is the lead economist on several Groundwater Sustainability Plans developed under SGMA in high and medium priority groundwater subbasins. He works to assess the value of water assets and evaluates third party impacts of water transfers. Duncan will be focusing on market design and economic implications of a potential market for stakeholders in MAGSA.

“We are really focused on the core task of developing a water market that works for MAGSA. This means looking at strategies for importing water and integrating the projects MAGSA lays out in its Groundwater Sustainability Plan. Looking at all components of market design will help us assess economic implications of this forward-thinking approach to SGMA implementation.”

Steve Hatchett, Water Transfer Economics, ERA Economics

Steve is a senior economist and project manager with ERA Economics with 30 years of experience specializing in water resources and agriculture. His focus is on assisting clients with integrated analyses, using economics integrated with hydrologic and engineering analyses. He has used mathematical modeling, statistical analysis, cost-benefit analysis, cost allocation, and regional economic impact analysis to support federal, state, and local agencies in implementing large water resource programs resulting from new laws and regulations. Steve and the ERA Economics team will focus on the cost-benefits and economic impact of water transfers within MAGSA under varying water market scenarios.

Gwyn-Mohr Tully, Surface Water Rights and Legal Support, Tully & Young

Gwyn-Mohr, a licensed California attorney with Tully and Young, brings extensive experience in surface and subsurface hydrology, law, and policy. He has evaluated water rights, contractual water obligations, water settlements, and has negotiated water transfers throughout California and the West. Gwyn-Mohr brings valuable understanding of the legal issues surrounding surface water rights and water transfers, and will be working to assess any legal implications of importing surface supplies into MAGSA, as well as how those supplies might be accounted for in an allocation in the market structure.

“We are approaching surface water supplies broadly, looking at a number of opportunities locally, regionally, and statewide. Integrating legal implications into this picture is a critical component to a successful water market strategy, and will be a complex but rewarding task.”

Greg Young, Surface Water, Tully & Young

Greg is a registered civil engineer with over 30 years of experience in water resource management. Greg provides expertise to local agricultural and urban water users, public agencies, and non-profits and private interests on SGMA compliance, water asset management, and water rights reporting. He is currently the lead technical strategist for SGMA efforts in Madera and Merced Counties. Greg is working on a similar water market study in progress in Madera County.

Greg will be working closely with MAGSA to identify potential surplus surface water to augment water supply.

Dave Ceppos, Outreach Task Lead, Sacramento State Consensus and Collaboration Program

A Managing Senior Mediator and Manager of Sacramento State’s Consensus and Collaboration Program, Dave has overseen extensive outreach efforts relating to water policy, including in 35 different Groundwater Sustainability Agencies in California. Dave has worked in SGMA efforts in the Chowchilla, Madera, and Kaweah regions as well as across the state in areas as north as Siskiyou County and to the south in the San Diego River Basin.

“The stakeholders in MAGSA have an incredible opportunity before them to shape how groundwater is sustainably managed in a way that maximizes its use and more specifically, its value. Our job is to make sure stakeholders are directly involved to develop water market options and can express their preferences on the design of a potential allocation and water market system.”

Malka Kopell, Facilitation, Sacramento State Consensus and Collaboration Program

Malka has over 30 years of experience collaborating with communities throughout California and nationally with meeting facilitation, conflict resolution, and process design. Malka is a Senior Mediator/Facilitator and has consulted on and supported public engagement on groundwater issues for both the Madera and Chowchilla GSA.

“I think what makes this project exciting is its stakeholder-driven nature. Engaging with landowners and other stakeholders to make this water market structure fit their needs is going to be critical to its success, and I look forward to facilitating open lines of communication between our team and the people MAGSA serves.”

The team is combining expertise to identify and analyze opportunities across the components of a water market and will provide MAGSA varying options to fit the needs of landowners and stakeholders within the area.

Especially critical is the engagement of stakeholders on their preferences for how each water market component is structured. A water market design is only good if it enjoys wide support and adoption, resulting from fitting the needs of MAGSA stakeholders and landowners. Opportunities are upcoming for stakeholders to engage through surveys, workshops, and individual interviews.

Stakeholder Alert emails will notify public of draft board policies

MAGSA is moving swiftly to adopt board policies, establishing a foundation for how groundwater will be managed in the years to come. The fastest way to engage in this process is via MAGSA’s email updates (sign up here). These policies will operate as rules and guidelines impacting stakeholders, and ultimately ensure MAGSA can effectively and sustainably manage groundwater within the area it serves. Stakeholders will be notified and invited to comment on draft board policies via “Stakeholder Alert” emails. All are invited to review and provide comment via an online comment form or at a MAGSA Board Meeting.

Engaging stakeholders and landowners remains a groundwater management priority. Water resources management impacts our growers, businesses, and community residents. Developing successful programs and projects that benefit the long term viability of MAGSA’s service area requires the valuable insight of stakeholders into the groundwater management process.

Groundwater conditions improve overall in the Kings Subbasin in water year 2019, Annual Report shows the data

The McMullin Area GSA (MAGSA) together with the six other GSAs in the Kings Subbasin submitted the first Annual Report to the CA Department of Water Resources (DWR) by the initial April 1, 2020 deadline. Thanks to favorable hydrology for the reporting period, Kings Subbasin groundwater conditions improved overall with groundwater storage increasing by 210,000 acre-feet Subbasin wide. The Annual Report informs the State and stakeholders on groundwater conditions in the Subbasin and focuses on water year 2019 (Sept 2018 – Oct 2019), a hydrologic “wet year” seeing 134% of average diversions on the Kings River, the majority of surface water supply to the region.

Combined surface and groundwater use in the Kings Subbasin across sectors including agriculture, urban, and managed recharge, totaled 2.7 million are-feet for the period. The report indicates groundwater extractions in MAGSA represent an estimated 30% of total 1.06 million acre-feet extractions Subbasin-wide. The MAGSA service area relies on groundwater to fully meet its water demands, and in the coming months and years plans to pursue any additional available surface water to bring into the agency to offset groundwater use. This strategy paired with water use efficiency, conservation measures, and demand reduction will over the long run positively impact the Kings Subbasin sustainability effort.

Correcting MAGSA’s estimated 91,000 acre-feet of annual overdraft is key to achieving sustainability as a Subbasin, and it will take steady implementation of projects and programs outlined in the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). The groundwater allocation and water marketing program currently being studied is a major shift that would improve water use efficiency across MAGSA while allowing landowners to take water management decisions into their own hands.

Considering this first report was prepared just months after the submission of the GSPs, the data does not stray from data already included in the seven Kings Subbasin GSA’s GSPs. Although, the Subbasin used the opportunity to include any additional data collected through the reporting period and established a template for future reports. Data was collected from the seven GSAs’ monitoring networks, groundwater extractions, surface water supply, total water use, and changes in groundwater storage.

Following the adoption of a GSP the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires GSAs to submit Annual Reports to DWR on April 1 every year as a tool to track and communicate GSP implementation progress.

There is no grading or scoring criteria on the Annual Report, and DWR expects this first report to be missing some information considering the short timeframe between GSP adoption and the report due date.

To stay up to date on MAGSA’s groundwater management activities, sign up for our interested persons email list here, and follow us on Twitter @McMullinAreaGSA!

A groundwater credit program and surface water market may not be too far off. MAGSA awards contract to Geosyntec to study the concepts.

Meeting the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act’s (SGMA) deadline for sustainable groundwater levels by 2040 is going to require creative solutions in many areas of California. Thanks to grant funding, MAGSA has hired engineering firm Geosyntec to conduct a study on one forward-thinking solution: a groundwater credit and surface water marketing program.

At the March 12, 2020 Board Meeting, the Board approved awarding engineering firm Geosyntec a contract to study the concepts. “We commend the McMullin Area GSA Board for getting ahead of the curve on studying water markets and groundwater credits, and look forward to working with stakeholders, staff and the Board on solutions that best fit the needs of landowners in the area,” stated Amer Hussain, the lead Geosyntec engineer on the study.

Geosyntec has begun work and projects the study will be complete by May 2021.

MAGSA posted a Request for Proposals in December seeking qualified contractors/firms to complete tasks associated with project management and administration, outreach and partnership building, scoping and planning, and water marketing strategy development. The proposal review process was conducted by an ad hoc committee of two stakeholders, one board member, and MAGSA’s General Manager.

The study is funded through a $193,000 WaterSMART grant awarded by the US Bureau of Reclamation, with a cost-share of $193,000. The total project cost is $386,000.

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 Consultant team will be out in the Agency soon providing information and background on these critical topics and will be seeking feedback and opinion from our Stakeholders to assist them in arriving at the best possible solutions tailored specifically for MAGSA.

Keep checking back on the website and in your e-mail inbox (and on Twitter!) for further opportunities to participate in the discussions. If you have not already done so, please make sure MAGSA has current, up-to-date email contact information for you so that we may not lose our outstanding stakeholder input pipeline!

MAGSA will respond and adapt to evolving COVID-19 circumstances; April 1 Board Meeting cancelled

As the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continue to evolve, MAGSA will respond, adjust and adapt to those circumstances with the health and safety of its stakeholders, Directors, staff, and the broader community as its number one concern.

Due to lack of available meeting facilities, MAGSA has cancelled its April 1 Board Meeting, with tentative plans to hold a meeting on April 15. If circumstances continue to make in-person meetings difficult, MAGSA is working on an alternative to make Board Meetings available to the public via live webinar or similar technology. Check the website regularly for updates.

MAGSA remains confident that the growers, business owners, and community residents that make up its service area are incredibly resilient. Despite uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to move in a forward direction alongside our stakeholders to secure a thriving and sustainable future.

While at all times operating under recommended precautions, MAGSA Directors and staff are working continuously on behalf of the landowners we serve, making forward progress on Groundwater Sustainability Plan implementation to close the gap on groundwater sustainability in the Kings Subbasin.

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