NEWS WORTH NOTING: Delta Conservancy approves $4.4M to benefit Delta ecosystems, water quality, and ag sustainability; Sonoma County Boards Approve Formation of New GSAs; Local water companies sign agreement for groundwater management in the Yucaipa Basin

Delta Conservancy approves $4.4M to benefit Delta ecosystems, water quality, and water-related agricultural sustainability

From the Delta Conservancy:

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy (Conservancy) approved approximately $4.4 million for four projects that restore and enhance ecosystems, improve water quality, and support water-related agricultural sustainability in the Delta. The Conservancy provides funding through a competitive grant process made possible by a voter-approved bond measure, Proposition 1 – the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014.

The approved projects will amplify the benefit of bond dollars by bringing in more than $1.9 million in private, State, and federal cost share dollars. The projects will restore upland and wetland ecosystems; enhance and connect habitats that are critical for migratory, threatened, and endangered species; create riparian habitat and improve water quality on working lands; and promote a better understanding of how to restore native vegetation. All projects must complete administrative and/or environmental compliance prerequisites before they receive funding.

“The Delta Conservancy is proud to partner with the organizations implementing these projects to create a more viable Delta ecosystem,” said Campbell Ingram, the Conservancy’s Executive Officer. “Each project is has support from members of the Delta community, and will provide benefits for natural and human communities.”

This is the second round of grants the Conservancy has awarded though Proposition 1, which provided a total $50 million for the Delta Conservancy for the competitive grants. The Conservancy will open a third grant solicitation in August of 2017 and anticipates awarding funding in the spring of 2018. The Conservancy plans to administer at least one grant cycle each fiscal year through 2020.

Working collaboratively and in coordination with local communities, the Delta Conservancy leads efforts to protect, enhance and restore the Delta economy, agriculture and working landscapes, and environment for the benefit of the Delta region, its local communities, and the citizens of California.

Sonoma County Boards Approve Formation of New Groundwater Sustainability Agencies

From the Sonoma County Water Agency:

On April 25, 2017 the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and the Sonoma County Water Agency Board of Directors unanimously approved the formation of three joint powers agreements. These agreements will result in the creation of three new groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) that will ensure that the Santa Rosa Plain, Petaluma Valley and Sonoma Valley basins continue to have safe and reliable groundwater in the future.

The new agencies are required by a 2014 state law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The first requirement of SGMA is the creation of GSAs, which are regulatory bodies responsible for developing and implementing plans to sustainably manage groundwater. To bring a basin’s groundwater into sustainability, the GSAs can develop recharge projects, promote recycled water, and provide incentives for water conservation, along with regulating groundwater use.  GSAs are intended to ensure that there is a balance in the amount of water that is going out of and coming into groundwater basins.

“It is critical that we take a holistic look at groundwater use in these three basins,” said Sonoma County Board and Water Agency Chairwoman Shirlee Zane.  “No one likes the idea of having their own well regulated, but we’ve heard many stories of residents’ groundwater use being impacted by a neighbor’s new well. These new agencies will help balance needs within the basins.”

In Sonoma County, the three areas immediately affected by SGMA are the Santa Rosa Plain, Sonoma Valley and Petaluma Valley. The action taken by the Board of Supervisors and the Water Agency Board of Directors on Tuesday will allow the County and Water Agency to participate in the three new GSAs. The same documents are being considered for adoption by cities, water districts and resource conservation districts in the three basins. If the basins aren’t managed locally, the state may intervene.

“Groundwater is a critical resource. Creating GSAs in each basin allows us to maintain local control and maximize expertise and knowledge, while minimizing bureaucracy and costs,” said Sonoma County Supervisor and Water Agency Director David Rabbitt, who sits on a County-Water Agency ad hoc groundwater committee.

A final step in the creation of the GSAs are public hearings in each basin. The hearings are slated for June 1 (Santa Rosa Plain, 5:30 p.m., Santa Rosa Utilities Field Office, 35 Stony Point Road) and June 8 (Sonoma Valley, 5:30 p.m., Vintage House, 264 1st St E). The Petaluma Valley public hearing will be announced next week.

“Elected officials and staff in the three basins have been working together for two years to develop a governance process that is fair, efficient and representative. We have received input through a stakeholder assessment, community meetings and conversations with constituents. We believe that the boards and the advisory committees of the new agencies will ensure that all voices will be heard as the GSAs get down to work,” said Sonoma County Supervisor and Water Agency Director Susan Gorin, who also serves on an ad hoc groundwater committee.

The board action also included a commitment for initial funding of the new agencies. The entities involved in creating the new agencies are committing, countywide, a total of $1.4 million for the first year of funding. The County and Water Agency each committed $316,000.

ABOUT SGMA LOCALLY

SGMA was passed into California law in fall 2014. SGMA requires that State-designated medium- and high-priority basins form a GSA(s) and develop a groundwater sustainability plan(s). Sonoma County has three medium priority basins: Petaluma Valley, Santa Rosa Plain and Sonoma Valley; these basins have to comply with SGMA.

The Sonoma Valley has a voluntary groundwater management plan and Basin Advisory Panel and is in its 9th year of plan implementation. The Santa Rosa Plain adopted a voluntary groundwater management plan in 2014, has a Basin Advisory Panel, which recently completed its second year of implementing that plan. These voluntary programs have given these areas a head start in complying with SGMA by developing collaborative stakeholder relationships and providing technical data and information that will be needed by the GSAs. The City of Petaluma and the Water Agency have embarked on a study with the U.S. Geological Service to understand its basin. These programs will be incorporated as much as possible when developing the Groundwater Sustainability Plan.

The GSA-eligible entities have been meeting since 2015 to understand SGMA requirements and explore options for GSA formation. Basin Advisory Panels (in Sonoma Valley and Santa Rosa Plain) have provided input on reaching out to stakeholders and shared ideas on how eligible entities can work together.  Public workshops were held in the fall of 2015, summer of 2016 and spring of 2017.  A website, www.sonomacountygroundwater.org includes up-to-date information on SGMA and a place to sign up for more information.

Milestone Agreement:  Local water companies sign agreement for groundwater management in the Yucaipa Basin

The presidents of South Mesa and Western Heights water companies announced today they have reached a groundwater management milestone by signing an agreement to participate in a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) formed by area cities and water agencies to ensure a reliable and resilient water system in the Yucaipa Basin.

“I am gratified that we reached this milestone,” said George Jorritsma, President of South Mesa Water Company. “This means that, together, we can create a water supply plan for the Yucaipa Basin to see us through times of abundance and drought.”

In addition to South Mesa Water Company (Calimesa, CA) and Western Heights Water Company (Yucaipa, CA), the seven other parties that comprise the GSA are: The cities of Yucaipa, Calimesa and Redlands, the Yucaipa Valley Water District, the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, and the San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency (Beaumont, CA), and the South Mountain Water Company (Redlands, CA).

Together, the water purveyors provide about 70,000 people with water in the Yucaipa Basin, which lies within San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

“I thank the public partners for taking a major step that moves us forward to help stabilize our valuable water resources in the Yucaipa Valley,” said Dr. Robert Zappia, President of Western Heights Water Company.

The GSA is consistent with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), that requires local agencies to form GSAs that will organize plans to bring groundwater aquifers into balanced levels of pumping and recharge. Under the GSA agreement, the parties agree to work in good faith to implement the policy, purposes, and requirements of SGMA in the Basin. These include governance, management, technical, financial, and other matters.

The public agencies and water suppliers in the Yucaipa Basin started meeting in 2014 to develop a groundwater management plan when they realized that the level of extractions from the Basin were not sustainable. Because the local supply of both surface water and groundwater is limited in the semiarid region, water purveyors need an accurate assessment of water resources.

Managing groundwater sustainably is key to the California Water Action Plan, the Brown administration’s five-year roadmap for building resilient, reliable water suppliers and restoring ecosystems.

South Mesa, founded in 1912, serves areas in Yucaipa and Calimesa. Western Heights, founded in 1910, provides water to portions of Yucaipa and Redlands. Both are mutual water companies, owned and governed by their customers who pride themselves on customer service and reasonable water rates.

 

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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