Governor Signs Groundwater Legislation
For the first time in history, California will begin regulating groundwater in the state. While the legislation Governor Brown signed last week won’t take full effect until 2022, Napa County has a considerable amount of work to do to prepare for implementation.

The three-bill package requires the establishment of groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) and adoption of groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) in specified areas, and provides for implementation tools and enforcement authorities at the state and local levels.

The Department of Water Resources has identified 127 groundwater basins and sub-basins that are high or medium priority for monitoring, including Napa.

The first task is regarding governance.  We will have until 2017 to establish a local groundwater sustainability agency. The new laws specifically list special water districts that were created in legislation as the exclusive entities within their boundaries to comply with the new law, unless they choose to opt out. In addition, the County may choose to be the agency or, in the case of an area where no local agency has assumed management, the law presumes the County to be the groundwater sustainability agency unless the County opts out.  It’s unlikely we’ll do that because, in that situation, the State Water Resources Control Board would step in.

After establishment of the GSA, the County will need to adopt a GSP (groundwater sustainability plan).

The new laws also include provisions that require coordination among local land use and groundwater management agencies, prohibit a sustainability agency from issuing permits for well construction, modification, or abandonment except as authorized by a County, and specify that nothing in the new law or a sustainability plan shall be interpreted as superseding the land use authority of cities and counties.

Throughout the process leading to the passage of this legislation, counties were opposed until our concerns were addressed.  Those concerns were mostly about the provisions that negatively impacted the role of counties in the sustainable groundwater management governance structure, and county police powers and land use authority.

We have not digested our role and responsibilities under the new laws and the potential impacts on County residents, and look forward to discussions with the Administration and other stakeholders regarding the implementation of the new laws.

Categories: Water - drinking water supplies, Watershed Issues

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