Calaveras and Stanislaus stakeholders form partnership to recharge groundwater basin

From left, Peter Martin, Calaveras County Water District water resources manager, Dennis Mills, Calaveras County supervisor District 4, and Walter Ward, water resources manager for Stanislaus County. 

The Calaveras County Water District, Rock Creek Water District and Stanislaus County announced the formation of a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) on Aug. 10 according to a press release.

The goal of the GSA is to protect the groundwater in the Eastern San Joaquin Groundwater Sub basin. The basin has been crucially over drafted since 1980.

“This is a historic achievement,” said CCWD General Manager, Dave Eggerton. “It’s the first-ever partnership between our two counties and it will be invaluable in helping us address the challenges of restoring the health of the groundwater basin.”

The three groups came together to form the Eastside GSA that will cover the Eastern San Joaquin Sub basin within Calaveras County and, portions of Stanislaus County that are not already within the boundaries of another GSA. The agencies approved a memorandum of understanding to form the GSA on Aug. 8.

The 198-square-mile area of the GSA boundary is known as the triangle and reaches into the western portion of Calaveras Count and the northern portion of Stanislaus County.

CCWD and its partners moved forward with the GSA’s formation to help contribute to the regional management of the basin.

The partnership was formed under requirements in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014. The bill tasked local agencies with managing their groundwater resources in a sustainable manner. ‘

The legislation was passed in an effort to curve years of unsustainable groundwater pumping practices in California. California was one of the last western states to pass laws regarding groundwater management. Over pumping groundwater stores can lead to land subsidence issues, dry wells and poor water quality.

“This GSA will benefit all partners because it will allow for cost sharing, grant opportunities, regional groundwater sustainability and options to  leverage technical expertise and includes close cooperation between upstream and downstream agencies, “said Terry Withrow, Stanislaus County district 3 supervisor.

The bill also established a timetable for adoption of groundwater sustainability plans and provides for a limited state role in handling groundwater basin supplies.

Now that the GSA has been formed, the work begins.

Under state law, the Eastside GSA will have to work with other stakeholders to develop a groundwater sustainability plan, which must be in place by 2020 due to its place as a high-priority basin.

The plan will provide a road map to promote groundwater sustainability in the basin by 2040 to avoid chronic lowering of groundwater levels and degradation of the water quality and land subsidence.

Millions in state grant funding is expected to be available to help fund the development of the plan.

Calaveras County also has plans to join the GSA in the fall through an amended memorandum of understanding between the four agencies.

This report was prepared by Sean P. Thomas with help from the Calaveras County Water District.


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