CSAC Bulletin Article

CSAC Provides Public Comment on the Tulare Lake Subbasin Probationary Hearing Draft Staff Report

December 14, 2023

In October 2023, the State Water Resource Control Board (SWB) released the Tulare Lake Subbasin Probationary Hearing Draft Staff Report (Draft Staff Report), the first draft report considering a probationary status of a groundwater basin. Within the report, the SWB concludes that the subbasin is unlikely to achieve sustainability by 2040, as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and outlines recommended actions. The Tulare Lake Subbasin is the first of the basins to require a probationary hearing. CSAC, along with other partner organizations, provided public comment requesting additional information and clarification as the correctional process moves forward.

Under SGMA, local agencies were responsible for forming groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) and developing groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) in high and medium priority basins to ensure groundwater viability in the next decades to come. If the GSPs are determined to not adequately outline proper steps toward managing groundwater and ensuring its sustainability, the state intervenes, and the basins are subject to corrective action addressing identified deficiencies. A probationary hearing is scheduled to assess whether it is appropriate to move forward with placing the basin under probation.    

SGMA implementation has and will continue to have serious and far-reaching consequences for California’s residents, businesses, growers, and environment. As such, it is imperative that its implementation is efficient, practical, and balanced. The following comments were made to the SWB following the release of the first draft staff report to assist the state as it determines designations of probationary status to basins across the state:

  1. Develop a clear process for exiting probation before probationary hearings begin.
  2. Develop a process by which a basin could submit a revised GSP that addresses deficiencies before a probationary hearing.
  3. Provide information about the format of probationary hearings.
  4. Focus on implementing SGMA as written and do not expand the scope of SGMA to include the implementation of other board priorities.
  5. Remain cognizant of the important relationship between GSAs and extractors.
  6. Understand the role of mitigation in SGMA.
  7. Reevaluate pumping fees before placing basins in probation.

To read the full letter, click here. For any questions, please contact Catherine Freeman at cfreeman@counties.org.

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