The Colusa Groundwater Authority and the Glenn Groundwater Authority are launching a media and social media blitz to alert the public and stakeholders of upcoming decisions that could significantly change the future of agriculture and municipal water availability.
Plans to regulate groundwater for the first time ever in the region are moving forward, and the two agencies will co-host a series of public events, starting with two workshops next week and extending to August 2021.
The goal of the outreach is to inform the public about local groundwater regulation and development of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Colusa Subbasin.
Groundwater regulation is an outcome of historic California legislation, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which was enacted to halt overdraft and bring groundwater basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge.
The SGMA requires local agencies to adopt sustainability plans for high-and medium-priority groundwater basins, officials said. Under SGMA, basins must reach sustainability within 20 years of implementing their plans.
SGMA Program Manager David Ceppos, who has led formation efforts in 35 groundwater basins around the state, said work on groundwater sustainability goals have been largely technical and “behind the scenes” to this point, but that the agencies are ready to begin presenting the information to the public.
“There’s been a lot of background work that had to be done,” said Ceppos, at a CGA online meeting last week.
Part of the work that was done was characterizing local groundwater conditions that will lead the Colusa and Glenn agencies to decisions that could impact groundwater users and farming operations forever.
The first online meeting will be held Dec. 9 from 5:50-8:30 PM via Zoom. The second will be held Dec. 10, from 1-4 PM. Meeting identification and passwords are available on the Colusa Groundwater Authority’s website.
“The SGMA-Series is very important,” Supervisor Denise Carter, CGA chairwoman, said in a statement. “Our Technical Advisory Committees have been meeting publicly and working hard to define local factors. We are now ready to have these public meetings and get the input we need to make decisions that will affect all of us for the next two decades and beyond.”
Ceppos said the CGA anticipate having a public draft of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan by August 2021 and a final plan for execution by the end of December of 2021.
“Things are starting to ramp up,” Ceppos said. “A lot of things are going to start happening.”
Ceppos said that due to COVID-19, outreach to the public will be largely online, through the local press, and through social media, with the CGA capturing relevant comments by the public.
Documenting feedback from the stakeholders is required under SGMA, Ceppos said.
The idea that local groundwater authorities will have significant power over water, both on public and private property, has received mixed support from stakeholders already.
Landowner Ben King last month strongly urged the City of Colusa and Colusa County to withdraw as a member of the Colusa Groundwater Authority and work with the City of Williams and County of Colusa to represent an independent public advocacy for the people, jobs, and environment, as part of a larger Cooperation Agreement allowed under the provisions of SGMA.
“This type of Cooperation Agreement is in place for the Butte Basin where the City of Biggs, the City of Gridley, and the County of Butte have entered into a Cooperation Agreement with private irrigation districts,” King told the Colusa City Council and Board of Supervisors at their November meetings. “As you know, I am concerned about representation of the CGA by a Bakersfield law firm that has major clients who want to promote water sales out of Colusa County.”
At the public outreach meetings, landowners will learn about the CGA groundwater monitoring program.
“We’re looking to build a pilot program where people are willing to enter their wells into this monitoring program to really expand this monitoring network for the basin, which is a necessary component of SGMA,” Ceppos said.
CGA officials said achieving and/or maintaining sustainable groundwater conditions in the Colusa Subbasin will require implementation of projects and management actions to avoid undesirable results from over pumping groundwater, and to combat drought due to climate change.
Management actions could include a combination of things, like supply augmentation from projects like Sites Reservoir, winter recharge projects, or by demanding water reduction, officials said.
The CGA expects to develop a mix of approaches to sustain groundwater before implementing measures in sufficient detail to satisfy the Groundwater Sustainability Plan.