NEWS WORTH NOTING: Seats Available on New Sonoma County Groundwater Advisory Committees; Corps releases revised docs for Folsom Dam Raise project; Court finds local taxes on non-Indian possessory interests in Indian Country not preempted by federal law

Seats Available on New Sonoma County Groundwater Advisory Committees

People who are interested in groundwater and who live in the Santa Rosa Plain or in Sonoma Valley groundwater basins, are urged to apply for a seat on one of the new groundwater advisory committees.

The new advisory committees will provide input and feedback on policies, programs and projects to the boards of the Santa Rosa Plain and Sonoma Valley groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs). These agencies were formed to meet the requirements of California’s historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which went into effect in 2015. (A hearing for the Petaluma Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency is slated for June 22, 5:30 p.m. at the Lucchesi Community Center, in Petaluma. It is anticipated that the Petaluma Valley GSA board will also approve a process to create an advisory committee.)

“This is an opportunity for well owners to share your ideas, thoughts and advice regarding new groundwater management,” said Lynda Hopkins, Chairwoman of the Santa Rosa Plain GSA board. “The board is looking for committed individuals who can roll up their sleeves and work through the many issues that will arise as we form this new agency.”

“California is regulating groundwater use for the first time in its history, and state leaders fortunately decided to let local agencies take the lead,” said Susan Gorin, Chairwoman of the Sonoma Valley GSA board. “To succeed, we need people who are willing to work together and to share their knowledge and experience.”

The Santa Rosa Plain Advisory Committee consists of 18 members, seven of which will be appointed by the Santa Rosa Plain GSA board. To ensure the advisory committee includes a variety of perspectives, the board is seeking two rural residential well owners, two agricultural representatives, two environmental representatives and one business representative. While the majority of the appointees must live within the Santa Rosa Plain groundwater basin, the board may appoint one person who lives within the larger Santa Rosa Plain watershed.

“We look forward to appointing people who really care about groundwater, and who are eager to represent the interests of a broad group of groundwater users,” said Tom Schwedhelm, Vice-Chairman of the Santa Rosa Plain GSA board.

The Sonoma Valley GSA consists of 12 members, six of which will be appointed by the Sonoma Valley GSA board. The board is seeking one rural residential well owner, one agricultural representative, one environmental representative, one business representative and two “at-large” community representatives (preferably one who is a hydrogeologist or geologist).

For both advisory committees, terms will be two-years (after initial staggered terms), and the advisory committees will meet every other month for two to three hours. Advisory committee members should also expect to spend several hours reading materials and preparing for meetings. Strong consideration will be given to candidates who have the backing of multiple organizations or individuals within their interest group.

The deadline for submitting applications is July 31, 2017. Additional information and the application for the Santa Rosa Plain GSA Advisory Committee can be found at and for the Sonoma Valley GSA Advisory Committee application at

Corps releases revised environmental report for Folsom Dam Raise project

From the Army Corps of Engineers:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District and Central Valley Flood Protection Board are recirculating for review a draft environmental impact statement/environmental impact report for the Folsom Dam Raise Project.

The report was initially released in July 2016; however, it is being be recirculated for a second public review and comment period due to significant changes made since then.

While the proposed project evaluated in the original draft report has not changed, the revised report provides additional information and corrects erroneous information and data. The report addresses environmental impacts and recommends mitigation measures in regard to the proposed modifications at Folsom Lake, including:

  • Tainter gate refinements – Refinements would include modifying eight Tainter gates located at the crest of the main dam (Folsom Dam). Other structural changes to the main dam would include: construction of new “top seal bulkheads” to prevent overtopping of the Tainter gates during a major flood event; construction of vertical concrete extensions to the dam’s 9 existing concrete piers to provide an elevated platform for a hoist system for the Tainter gates and mountings for the top seal bulkheads, and; installation of the hoist system.
  • Earthen raise elements – The existing crest elevation of Dikes 1 through 8 and the Mormon Island Auxiliary Dam would be raised by about 3.5 feet by adding earthen and rock materials to the top and upper sides of these features.
  • Concrete floodwall elements – A reinforced concrete floodwall would be built on top of the Left Wing Dam and Right Wing Dam, thereby raising the crest elevation of these embankment dams by roughly 3.5 feet.

The revised draft report is available on the project web site at  Public comments can be submitted until July 31, 2017.

Comments, questions, or requests for copies can be made through email to or by postal mail to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, Attn: Ms. Victoria Hermanson, 1325 J Street, Sacramento, California 95814. All comments received concerning the draft SEIS/EIR will be considered and incorporated into the final SEIS/EIR, as appropriate.

The Dam Raise Project is part of the Corps’ Folsom Dam Modification Project, also called the Joint Federal Project, designed to implement dam safety and flood risk reduction features at Folsom Dam and associated facilities to help prevent catastrophic flooding in the Sacramento region.

Court Finds Local Taxes on Non-Indian Possessory Interests in Indian Country Not Preempted by Federal Law

BB&K Wins Major Victory for Local Agencies Confirming Authority for Taxation

From Best, Best, & Krieger LLP:

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — In a major win affecting counties and local taxing entities throughout California, Best Best & Krieger LLP attorneys Roderick E. Walston and Steven G. Martin helped secure a federal court ruling that possessory interests held by non-Indians on otherwise tax-exempt Indian lands are nonetheless subject to state and local taxation. The decision clarifies that California’s taxes on possessory interests — a type of interest created by lease — are generally not preempted by federal law in Indian country, and that counties are essentially free to levy and collect taxes on the value of such possessory interests to support programs funded by their taxes.

The case stems from a complaint filed by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians against Riverside County in January 2014. BB&K represents Desert Water Agency, which intervened on the side of Riverside County. The County levies and collects Desert Water Agency’s ad valorem taxes, which are taxes based on the value of the possessory interest and that support debt payments related to importing water supplies for people and businesses, including the Indian tribes, in the Coachella Valley.

The issue in the case was whether the County’s possessory interest tax (which includes Desert Water Agency’s ad valorem tax) can lawfully be applied to non-Indians on the Tribe’s reservation. Riverside County has levied and collected such taxes for decades pursuant to California law. The Tribe brought the action against the County in federal court alleging that the County’s tax is preempted by federal law. Specifically, the Tribe alleged that the County’s tax is preempted by a federal statute that preempts state taxes applied to lands and rights of Indian tribes (25 U.S.C. section 5108 (former section 465)). It also alleged that the so-called Bracker balancing test, which analyzes the balance of federal, state and tribal interests related to state taxation of non-Indians on Indian reservations, weighs in favor of the Tribe to preempt the tax.

All three parties — the Tribe, Riverside County and Desert Water Agency — filed motions for summary judgment arguing either that the federal laws preempt the local taxes, or they do not preempt them. The motions were argued on May 12. U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee for the Central District of California ultimately ruled Thursday in favor of the County and Desert Water Agency, and against the Tribe. The ruling stated that the federal statute (25 U.S.C. section 465) does not apply to Indian reservations created prior to enactment of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, and thus it does not apply on the Tribe’s reservation here. It also stated that the balance of federal, state and tribal interests under the Bracker balancing test weighs in favor of the County and Desert Water Agency, because they provide services to the non-Indians on the Tribe’s reservation and the legal incidence of the tax falls on the non-Indians and not on the Tribe or its members.
This decision adds greater clarity to the question of whether local taxes on non-Indian possessory interests in Indian country are preempted by federal law, and supports counties across the State that desire to levy and collect taxes on the value of such possessory interests.

The case is Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Riverside County, 14-0007

Best Best & Krieger LLP is a national law firm that focuses on environmental, business, education, municipal and telecommunications law for public agency and private clients. With more than 170 attorneys, the law firm has nine offices nationwide, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Riverside and Washington, D.C. For more information, visit or follow @BestBestKrieger on Facebook or @BBKlaw on Twitter.



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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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