Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Groundwater Plan Could Give Corcoran More of a Sinking Feeling
SJV-Water
By SJV Water
Published 4 years ago on
February 5, 2020

Share

It’s hard to imagine state officials giving the thumbs up to a groundwater sustainability plan that potentially allows Corcoran – California’s subsidence epicenter – to sink another 6 feet.
Especially considering the tiny, rural town was forced to spend $14 million in 2017 to rebuild its levees following the 2012-16 drought when it suffered subsidence of up to 1.5 feet a year.

Portrait of SJVWater.org chief executive officer Lois Henry
Lois Henry
SJV Water
Opinion
But the joint Tulare Lake Subbasin GSP, indeed, allows for subsidence of between 6 and a maximum of 11 feet beneath Corcoran and the town of Lemoore between now and 2040.
How that will pass muster under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act remains to be seen.
One of the main reasons the act was passed in 2014 was to get a handle on runaway subsidence that’s been wrecking roads, bridges, levees and canals. Not to mention keeping groundwater levels high enough so shallow drinking water wells don’t dry up in another drought, leaving entire communities without water.
Yet, the Tulare Lake plan also allows for groundwater levels to drop up to 100 feet in some areas of the subbasin, which covers most of Kings County.

‘Nothing to See Here’ Stance

These are issues playing out over millions of acres of farmland throughout the Central Valley as new SGMA rules are just starting to bear down.
But while most groundwater sustainability agencies have struggled to develop meaningful plans to slow or halt overpumping, it seems Tulare Lake’s five GSAs opted instead for a “nothing to see here” stance.
In fact, the plan plainly states: “Land subsidence has been effectively managed by the GSA member agencies. The rate and degree to which subsidence has occurred have not been significant and unreasonable.”
Same with groundwater levels: “The groundwater level declines have been effectively managed by the GSA member agencies. The rate and degree to which groundwater levels have declined over the long-term have not been significant and unreasonable,” according to the Tulare Lake groundwater sustainability plan. (Corcoran subsidence chart with and without gsp Lemoore subsidence chart with gsp and baseline)

“I think we’ll get some pushback.” — Steve Jackson, a board member on the Southwest Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency
Those statements seem contrary to the California Department of Water Resources’ designation of the Tulare Lake Subbasin as “critically overdrafted,” meaning groundwater extraction regularly exceeds the surface supply leading to unacceptable subsidence and groundwater depletion.
“I think DWR will be taking a hard look at this,” predicted Steve Jackson, a board member on the Southwest Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency, one of five GSAs in the Tulare Lake Subbasin that signed off on this plan. The plan had to be submitted by January 31, but Jackson had concerns about how the plan would be viewed.
“I think we’ll get some pushback.”

High Stakes Gamble

The DWR is just beginning to review sustainability plans filed last month by water agencies up and down the state. If it deems the Tulare Lake plan inadequate, it could result in the basin being put into “probationary status.”
Under probation, the State Water Resources Control Board would take control of groundwater pumping in the subbasin. It would require anyone pumping groundwater to submit detailed extraction reports and pay fees of $300 per well plus $40 per acre-foot pumped. And it could write its own, interim groundwater sustainability plan, which could include severe pumping restrictions.
The specter of state interference in local water use has prodded most Central Valley GSAs to draw up detailed plans with a host of “management actions” to shore up groundwater levels and prove to the state they’re taking SGMA seriously.
Whether those management actions are adequate, or even feasible, may be debatable. But they are included in most groundwater sustainability plans.
Comparatively, the Tulare Lake plan has only a handful of sketched out management actions, with most of the rest listed as “potential projects.”
“Once the GSP is approved, the projects and management actions previously selected by each GSA will be advanced and implemented,” the plan states.
The five GSAs that make up the Tulare Lake Subbasin are Mid-Kings River, South Fork Kings, El Rico, Tri-County, and Southwest Kings.
Though all five GSAs approved the plan, some board members have deep misgivings about whether the state will find it acceptable.

Better Stewards

Doug Verboon is a small farmer growing walnuts in the northern part of Kings County. He’s a board member of the South Fork Kings GSA and a county supervisor.

“We need to be much better stewards of our water.” — Doug Verboon, walnut farmer and Kings County supervisor
He has been a vocal critic of the Tulare Lake groundwater plan despite having voted for approval in mid-January.
“I wish it had been more aggressive. It’s not strong enough. But at least we’re all talking now,” he said of the five GSAs. “We need to be much better stewards of our water.”
Aside from concerns about continued subsidence, groundwater declines and a lack of clearly defined projects, Verboon was also upset the plan didn’t address groundwater exports.
“We need to remove the temptation for people to sell groundwater outside the basin.”
And he worried that plans to fallow cropland could allow larger farming operations to force out smaller farmers, according to a comment letter he submitted in December.
The largest GSA in the subbasin, El Rico GSA, covers ground mostly owned by farming giant J. G. Boswell.

Who’s Pumping What?

Jeof Wyrick, a Boswell employee, is the spokesman for El Rico and has served as the main contact for the Tulare Lake Subbasin GSP.
He answered a couple questions about the draft plan, before the final plan was publicly released in late January.
Though he said there had been changes between the draft and the final, he said neither version purposely worsened subsidence and groundwater levels.
One of the problems with SGMA, he said, is that it carves up large “blobs of land” and demands a single management plan without allowing for different groundwater supply, quality and uses within those blobs.
That said, he agreed that the Tulare Lake plan, like most Central Valley plans, lacks good data, which is why the project list is vague.
“Until you know who’s pumping what, it’s hard to make a specific plan,” he said.
Wyrick did not return calls about the final GSP to discuss what changes had been made.
Not many, per a review by neighboring Westlands Water District, which commented on the draft plan in December.

Emergency Water Fund

In that letter, Westlands urges GSA members of Tulare Lake to reconsider setting groundwater levels substantially lower than where Westlands has set its levels.
Westlands, which makes up the Westside Subbasin west and north of Tulare Lake, set its rock bottom groundwater levels at those reached during the 2012-2016 drought. Those are its “minimum thresholds.”
But it put its “measurable objectives,” the levels it will strive for, much higher, said Russ Freeman, Westlands Deputy General Manager for Resources.
“We have a number of aggressive management actions to maintain our levels much higher,” he said. “That’s difficult to do when right next door, they’re dropping their levels an extra 60 to 100 feet. So, yes, we still have concerns.”
Westlands’ view is the water between the upper measurable objectives and lower minimum thresholds is an emergency account to be tapped only in event of another severe drought.
The Tulare Lake plan’s levels “aren’t reasonable if they’re looking at this the same way we are,” Freeman said.
Groundwater plans for critically overdrafted subbasins were due to the state by Jan. 31. The DWR should make the plans public in the next 20 days, opening a 75-day comment period.

Most Plans Underwhelming

Though the Community Water Center, a nonprofit watchdog group supporting clean drinking water, didn’t review the Tulare Lake plan, Regional Water Management Coordinator Adriana Renteria, wasn’t surprised by the criticism she was hearing.

“Most of the plans are poor. No pumping limits, increased subsidence, a number of wells that will go dry. That’s stuff we found in every plan.” — Adriana Renteria of the Community Water Center
“Most of the plans are poor,” Renteria said of the Central Valley SGMA plans. “No pumping limits, increased subsidence, a number of wells that will go dry. That’s stuff we found in every plan. So, problems aren’t exclusive to Kings County or that GSP.”
She said most of the plans seem to be outlines of actions water managers may take in the future.
“We were anticipating that 2020 would be the start of actual projects to improve groundwater in the valley,” Renteria said. “The reality is, beginning in January is when decisions will start to be made.
“I think, as a state, we had much different expectations of how SGMA would roll out.”
About the Author
Lois Henry is the CEO and editor of SJV Water. She has 30 years’ experience covering water and other issues in the San Joaquin Valley. Henry lives with her husband, five dogs, one orange cat, and a cranky rescue mustang horse in Bakersfield.

DON'T MISS

Madera Pharmacist Pleads Guilty in Long-Running Opiate Trafficking Scheme

DON'T MISS

No Fresno Unified Superintendent Search Until After Labor Day

DON'T MISS

Former Clovis West Star Adrian Martinez Does It Again. He’s UFL Title Game MVP.

DON'T MISS

Long Prison Stint for Fresno Man Busted in Child Solicitation Sting

DON'T MISS

3 Days in Space Were Enough to Change 4 Astronauts’ Bodies and Minds

DON'T MISS

An Emotional Win for Theaters, Hollywood: ‘Inside out 2’ Scores Massive $155 Million Opening

DON'T MISS

Oxfam CEO Slams UK Arms Sales Amid Gaza Crisis

DON'T MISS

Israeli Airstrikes in West Bank Claim Child Victims Amid Escalating Tactics

DON'T MISS

Gavin Newsom and the Legislature Far Apart on College Spending as Budget Deadline Nears

DON'T MISS

Visalia’s Stephen Vogt Has Guided Young Guardians to Top of AL Central

UP NEXT

This Is How Clovis East Alum Bryson DeChambeau Won His 2nd US Open, Denying Rory McIlroy

UP NEXT

What Have We Liberals Done to the West Coast?

UP NEXT

The Chilling Reason You May Never See the New Trump Movie

UP NEXT

Here’s Why Ukraine Should Seek Peace

UP NEXT

Fresno County Gets National Recognition for Poverello House Project

UP NEXT

Investigators Have Name & Face for Suspected Arsonist Who Left Notes at Fresno Homes

UP NEXT

Paw-sitively Spikey: The Rise of a Supermutt!

UP NEXT

Supreme Court Deals Blow to Environmental Law Relied on by Housing Opponents

UP NEXT

After Bitwise: Many Employees Need to Enhance Skills to Match Their Old Salaries

UP NEXT

Squaw Valley Man Allegedly Killed by Lifelong Friend

Long Prison Stint for Fresno Man Busted in Child Solicitation Sting

43 mins ago

3 Days in Space Were Enough to Change 4 Astronauts’ Bodies and Minds

1 hour ago

An Emotional Win for Theaters, Hollywood: ‘Inside out 2’ Scores Massive $155 Million Opening

2 hours ago

Oxfam CEO Slams UK Arms Sales Amid Gaza Crisis

2 hours ago

Israeli Airstrikes in West Bank Claim Child Victims Amid Escalating Tactics

2 hours ago

Gavin Newsom and the Legislature Far Apart on College Spending as Budget Deadline Nears

2 hours ago

Visalia’s Stephen Vogt Has Guided Young Guardians to Top of AL Central

2 hours ago

‘A Hellscape’: Dire Conditions in Gaza Leave a Multitude of Amputees

2 hours ago

Will Finishing Touches to $2B Fresno Budget Occur in Public?

3 hours ago

Man Plotted Mass Shooting in Atlanta to Incite ‘Race War,’ Officials Say

3 hours ago

Madera Pharmacist Pleads Guilty in Long-Running Opiate Trafficking Scheme

Fresno residents Ifeanyi Vincent Ntukogu, 49, and Kelo White, 43, pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute and distributing oxycodone and ...

16 mins ago

16 mins ago

Madera Pharmacist Pleads Guilty in Long-Running Opiate Trafficking Scheme

26 mins ago

No Fresno Unified Superintendent Search Until After Labor Day

34 mins ago

Former Clovis West Star Adrian Martinez Does It Again. He’s UFL Title Game MVP.

43 mins ago

Long Prison Stint for Fresno Man Busted in Child Solicitation Sting

1 hour ago

3 Days in Space Were Enough to Change 4 Astronauts’ Bodies and Minds

2 hours ago

An Emotional Win for Theaters, Hollywood: ‘Inside out 2’ Scores Massive $155 Million Opening

2 hours ago

Oxfam CEO Slams UK Arms Sales Amid Gaza Crisis

2 hours ago

Israeli Airstrikes in West Bank Claim Child Victims Amid Escalating Tactics

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend