The agreement between the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency and the Friant Water Authority will provide additional funding for repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal.
But the agreement will also help the ETGSA meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act while allowing growers in the district to continue “transitional” pumping.
On January 7, the ETGSA Board approved the agreement with the Friant Water Authority, which oversees the Friant-Kern Canal. The ETGSA oversees the Groundwater Sustainable Plan to meet the requirements of the SGMA to reduce the use of groundwater by a certain amount by 2040.
The ETGSA essentially covers Southeastern Tulare County. The agreement also prevents an potential litigation against the ETGSA or its landowners.
In the agreement, ETGSA has agreed to pay for anticipated impacts on the Friant-Kern Canal as the result of future groundwater pumping. Over pumping of groundwater has caused the canal's level of water to decline, known as subsidence. That has reduced the canal's ability to deliver water, known as conveyance, by as much as 60 percent.
The over pumping of groundwater has affected the Friant Kern Canal and the Arvin Edison Water Storage District, which has also entered into the agreement.
A GSP must not include action that causes “undesirable” results. The subsidence to the Friant-Kern Canal caused by groundwater pumping is considered an undesirable result. But the agreement with FWA allows for the continuation of an amount of overdraft pumping, referred to as “transitional pumping,” so an undesirable result won't happen.
“To provide landowners within the ETGSA flexibility to achieve sustainability within the allowable timeframe, the ETGSA GSP allows a continued amount of overdraft pumping, referred to as “transitional pumping.” ETGSA stated in a press release.
It's estimated the amount ETGSA could contribute to the Friant-Kern Canal is anywhere from $125 million to $200 million. The more ETGSA can pay up front through measures such as receiving Proposition 68 funding, the less it will have to pay.
ETGSA stated the amount negotiated in the settlement is based on the amount of transitional pumping expected, along with a penalty based on per acre-foot. Landowners who use transition pumping would pay the per acre-foot penalty, the ETGSA stated.
“SGMA compliance is challenging for all involved and agencies are working together to produce viable solutions for water delivery, storage and recharge,” said ETGSA board member and Tulare County Supervisor Dennis Townsend. “This agreement is the culmination of hours of planning and negotiations to address historic subsidence issues and the need for continued groundwater pumping in this transitional period. Stakeholders hope working together will ensure better water delivery and sustained success for all involved.”
The federal government is providing $206 million for Friant-Kern Canal repairs from the omnibus spending package recently approved by Congress and signed by President Trump. That funding and the additional funding from the agreement will come close to providing all the needed funding for the repairs.
A 33-mile stretch of the canal from Avenue 208 between Lindsay and Strathmore to North Kern County will be repaired and the repairs are set to begin this year.
“I’m pleased that we were able to resolve this in a way that will avoid expensive and painful litigation that itself could cause a great deal of harm to our communities,” said ETGSA Chairman Eric Borba. “Ensuring growers’ access to transitional pumping while minimizing impacts to the FKC is our key concern.”
Further information regarding the ETGSA and the ETGSA GSP can be found at https://easterntulegsa.com/.