City Council is recommended to approve the City of Coalinga establishing itself as a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and to take the necessary steps to do so. The steps are expression of intent to establish a GSA, followed by published notice and a hearing pursuant to SGMA requirements and notice to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). Accordingly, motion is requested in which the City Council would state its intent to form the City of Coalinga Groundwater Sustainability Agency, set a public hearing for April 25, 2018 to consider GSA formation, and direct staff and consultants to prepare necessary documents and publish the notice for the hearing. The alternative of no action is the eventual possibility, as provided under SGMS, of the State Water Resources Control Board intervening to undertake administration of the local groundwater basin.
In 2014, Governor Brown approved a three-bill package that has become California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. For the first time in its history, California has a statutory framework for sustainable, groundwater management - “management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results.” SGMA requires governments and water agencies of high and medium priority groundwater basins to halt overdraft and bring groundwater basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge. Under SGMA, these basins should reach sustainability within 20 years of implementing their sustainability plans. For critically over-drafted basins, that will be 2040. For the remaining high and medium priority basins, the deadlines are 2042 and 2044 respectively.1
SGMA defines groundwater basins within California, and requires they have Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) covering pumping activity. The basin for Coalinga is “5-022.10 SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY PLEASANT VALLEY” (Pleasant Valley Basin) as designated by DWR and with the basin boundaries modified as approved by DWR. The Pleasant Valley Basin is now medium priority basin.2 The established agency for the Pleasant Valley Basin is the Pleasant Valley Water District Groundwater Sustainability Agency (Pleasant Valley Agency) formed by the Pleasant Valley Water District (PVWD). The Pleasant Valley Agency is comprised of a governing board of landowner/farmers3 that is already supported technically by Provost & Pritchard, which is also the consulting engineer for the Pleasant Valley Agency.
DWR requires that the entire territory of the groundwater basin be covered by the territory of one or more GSAs. The City and PVWD include most but not all of the territory in the Pleasant Valley Basin. The remainder of the basin is in unincorporated territory of Fresno County.
The Pleasant Valley Basin will have three GSAs to achieve complete coverage in the basin. They are the Pleasant Valley Agency, the County of Fresno GSA, and the City of Coalinga GSA. See the attached maps which show the areas within the City, PVWD, and the County “white areas.” Unless the agencies agree to combine, each agency must submit its own Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) that documents how groundwater will be not be depleted but rather maintained at sustainable levels.
The Pleasant Valley Basin was recently reprioritized by DWR as a medium priority basin. Under this priority, the formation of GSAs for the basin is extended to January 7, 2021, submittal of the GSP is due in 2024 and sustainability achieved by 2044.
1 Taken from the Department of Water Resources Website at https://water.ca.gov/Programs/Groundwater-Management/SGMA-Groundwater-Management.
2 The basin was originally a high priority basin because it was an overdrafted basin, but not a basin subject to critical conditions of overdraft. The critically overdrafted basins have the highest priority under SGMA.
3 The board members are the same as the board of PVWD.
The Pleasant Valley Agency does not automatically have responsibility for lands within the city limits of Coalinga, nor does it have responsibility for lands in the County and not within the boundaries of PVWD or the City. However, the state Water Code allows agencies to combine, either through a joint powers agreement or a memorandum of agreement.4 Representatives of the parties have met and believe the best recommended approach is for the Pleasant Valley Agency to manage SGMA responsibilities for the entire Pleasant Valley Basin. The party representatives further tentatively agreed that the best mechanism would be through MOUs between the City and the Pleasant Valley Agency, and between the County and the Pleasant Valley Agency.
4 State Water Code Section 10723.6
The City of Coalinga can form its own GSA within its city limits and perform all the requirements of SGMA, or the City can form a GSA and enter into an MOU with the Pleasant Valley Agency. Complying with SGMA separately would be administratively burdensome for the City compared to the alternative for SGMA compliance to be achieved under an MOU with the Pleasant Valley Agency.
V. FISCAL IMPACT:
The fiscal impact to the City of Coalinga water enterprise should be minor. The City itself does not use ground water for any purpose because the quality of groundwater is poor and because the City has an ample supply of surface water provided from the Bureau of Reclamation through the Central Valley Project. However, some groundwater may pumped inside the City limits by the parks district and on land acquired for the projected new wastewater treatment plant at the southwest corner of Alpine and Jayne Avenues, when that land is farmed. Accordingly, the City itself will not incur SGMA costs for restoration of groundwater because it does not use groundwater but pumping by others inside City limits may need to be addressed in the GSP for the basin. The City may incur some cost sharing for administrative activities through Provost & Pritchard, the cost of publishing the notice to form a GSA, and possibly a share of the cost of preparing the GSP. This cost would be subject to negotiation among the GSAs that are subject to the projected MOU, which would be approved by the City GSA. An unresolved question is whether the City may receive benefit or credit under SGMA from its treated wastewater that percolates back into the basin and augments the groundwater. A further unresolved question is whether produced water from oil production must be accounted for in the GSP.