New groundwater rules prompts tax process to fund state mandates

The Colusa County Groundwater Authority has started the process to ask landowners within the boundaries of the Colusa Subbasin to levy assessments against their property in order to cover the costs and expenses related to the 2014 unfunded California law that required the formation of new government agencies to monitor and manage groundwater.

The CCGA board on Sept 25 contracted with Provost & Pritchard Consulting Group to prepare an engineer’s report and fee study to meet the requirements of Proposition 218, the 1996 initiative approved by voters that gives landowners a say on property-related taxes.

The CCGA board, headed by Colusa County Supervisor Denise Carter, also asked Provost & Prichard to assist them with the public outreach critical for landowners to understand the process and need for raising local funds in order to develop and implement the new groundwater rules under the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

“(The public outreach) will consist of two mailers, one public information meeting, and one public hearing,” Carter said.

The CCGA board said last week that they have not ruled out holding additional meetings if they see a need.

The Colusa County Groundwater Authority is a Joint Powers Agreement between Colusa County, the cities of Colusa and Williams, area water districts and water users.

Their goal, officials said, is to develop a plan that ensures a reliable water supply, long-term groundwater sustainability, optimizes conjunctive use of surface and groundwater, protects water rights, maintains local control, and prevent unnecessary restrictions on groundwater use.

The law requires the CCGA to develop a basin-wide Groundwater Sustainability Plan by 2022 and implement other activities like groundwater monitoring, which officials estimate will cost about $400,000 a year.

Although Provost & Prichard is tasked with substantiating the appropriate amount of fee to impose that does not exceed the reasonable costs to provide services, officials currently estimate the tax at $1.30 to $1.50 per acre a year on each parcel.

Carter said notices of the proposed fees could go out to property owners within the basin boundaries by January or February of 2019, followed by a public hearing that must be held within 45 days.

The CCGA board is paying Provost & Prichard a total of $65,000 to coordinate the Proposition 218 process, do a parcel evaluation and fee study, public outreach, prepare the notices to the landowners, and levy the fees, if passed.