Colusa Mayor Josh Hill appointed Colusa Councilwoman Denise Conrado on Feb. 2 to represent the city on the Colusa Groundwater Authority.
The Colusa Groundwater Authority is the local groundwater sustainability agency responsible for implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in the Colusa County portion of the Colusa Subbasin, and the county portion of the Butte subbasin, outside of Reclamation District 1004. The CGA is a 12-member Joint Powers Authority that was formed on June 29, 2017 to implement stringent requirements by the state to manage and sustain groundwater, which is a primary source for municipal drinking water and agriculture irrigation.
The County of Colusa and the City of Williams are also members of the regulatory agency, along with private pumpers and local irrigation districts. The agency is charged with developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan, as required by the most controversial and far reaching water management legislation in California history.
“The state is saying that you have to start managing your groundwater; start managing your basin,” said City Manager Jesse Cain. “If you don’t do it, (the state) will come in and charge you and (they) will do it for you.”
According to the state, overpumping of groundwater and drought has led to a variety of negative effects including reduced groundwater levels, seawater intrusion, and degraded water quality in the Colusa Subbasin and 18 other critically stressed groundwater basins.
Overpumping has also led to land subsidence, which can cause damage to critical water infrastructure, and, in some cases, years of over pumping have left entire California communities and farms without safe and reliable local water supplies, CGA officials said.
Since the CGA Joint Powers Authority was first approved, Colusa has not actively participated in the development of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan, which is a plan to achieve groundwater sustainability by 2040. Cain said he only occasionally attended CGA meetings.
Mary Fahey, GCA executive director, recently responded to the member agencies in response to calls by Colusa landowner Ben King for Colusa, Colusa County, and Williams to withdraw.
Fahey said the CGA is in a critical stage in developing a plan to manage groundwater, and that if any of the members withdrew from the JPA, they would be required to find another vehicle for complying with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, including possibly developing their own plan for managing groundwater.
“A partnered approach to groundwater management and implementation of the Act is in the best interest of beneficial use and users within the Agency boundaries because it will maximize efficiencies, keep costs at a minimum, and capitalize on skills and strengths of various partners, provided that such proposed partnership also creates and maintains collegial relationships and flexible implementation of the Act,” Fahey said.
Conrado, who was elected to the City Council on Nov. 3, is the first elected Colusa official to take a seat at the table. Williams City Councilman Sajit Singh represents Williams in the agency. Colusa County Supervisor Denise Conrado represents the county, and is the current CGA Chair.
“I’m really interested in this,” said Conrado, who has also taken interest in other local water, drought, and flood protection matters.
Cain said he would continue to attend meetings with Conrado until she is up to speed in the agency. ♣