Wednesday, April 21, 2021

NEWSPAPER PUBLISHED WEEKLY ON THURSDAY

Groundwater officials begin push to reach stakeholders

The Colusa and Glenn groundwater authorities held two online meetings last week in an effort to reach stakeholders about efforts underway to develop projects and management actions to sustain groundwater in the Colusa Basin for decades to come. 

The Colusa Groundwater Authority and Glenn Groundwater Authority are working together on a plan to sustain groundwater through a Joint Powers Agreement, officials said. 

The coronavirus pandemic has prevented the local groundwater sustainability agencies from conducting in-person meetings, so the public had to participate in the lengthy workshops on their phones or computers, which was not how groundwater officials wanted to update stakeholders on their progress to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2014. 

The landmark legislation will have far reaching impacts on water users, including private well owners and municipalities, officials said. 

“This is not the way we wanted to do outreach for such an important thing in our county,” said Colusa Groundwater Authority Chairwoman Denise Carter. “As we move forward, hopefully we will be able to have meetings in person in the future.”

Dave Ceppos, the agencies’ groundwater advisor, facilitated the meetings. Ceppos has worked extensively with Glenn and Colusa groundwater officials to develop a shared Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Colusa Basin, which is a requirement of the law. 

SGMA was enacted in order to halt overdraft and bring groundwater basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge, officials said. 

“The GSP is a comprehensive document that we are required to prepare that will describe how we manage our groundwater for the next 20 years,” Carter said.

Public meetings on the GSP development are a requirement of SGMA and public input will be important, she added. 

The CGA is currently soliciting ideas for projects and management actions. 

The goal of the plan will be to maintain, though a cooperative and partnered approach, locally managed sustainable groundwater to preserve and enhance the social, cultural, and economic vitality  of all water users, including domestic, agriculture, municipal, environmental, tribal, and industrial, without experiencing undesirable results by managing use within the sustainable yield. 

The CGA is also developing a well monitoring pilot program, and plans to hold a workshop in January to solicit voluntary participation. 

The public is invited to visit the CGA and GGA websites, where they can view last week’s presentation, which included Davis-based hydrologist Ken Loy, who gave an update on the current conditions of the basin’s groundwater.

Stakeholders are also encouraged to sign onto the agencies’ email lists for continued information. 

The Colusa and Glenn groundwater authorities have until January of 2022 to present their final Groundwater Sustainability Plan to the Department of Water Resources and the California Water Resources Control Board, although some agencies have asked the state to extend that deadline due to complications of public outreach during a pandemic. 

Colusa and Glenn officials have targeted August of 2021 for the release of their draft plan, and will host public meetings monthly until final adoption in the fall. 

“We have the opportunity to really create our own plan here in Colusa and in Glenn County,” Carter said. “There is a lot of data and so if (stakeholders) have ideas for projects and management actions, please submit them. It’s going to take all of us to create it.”

Glenn Groundwater Authority Chairman John Viegas echoed Carter’s efforts to get stakeholders to get involved. 

“It’s been a long haul,” said. “But I think things are really coming together, and we definitely need the public’s input on this.” 

Viegas said a lot of work is ahead for the two groundwater sustainability agencies, and that the work will continue for decades because of how the requirements were set up under the Groundwater Sustainability Act.

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