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At Kern County Water Summit Experts Speak About Path Towards SGMA Compliance

The Kern County Subbasin is at risk of entering probation if local groundwater sustainability authorities do not submit a plan that is deemed compliant with SGMA
Posted at 4:54 PM, Mar 07, 2024

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Water is the lifeblood of Kern County. From oil to agriculture, water keeps our economy afloat.

That’s why the Kern County water Summit brings together those that work with water, from farmers to builders, to discuss the trials and triumphs of managing water in California.

“The Water Association of Kern County’s mission is to inform and educate the community of Kern County about our top water issues,” said Jenny Holtermann, the Executive Director of the Water Association of Kern County.

The conference was organized by the water association and featured topics such as water banking, common infrastructure roadblocks, and compliance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA.

"All 22 groundwater sustainability agencies in Kern County, they are coming together to revise all of their groundwater sustainability plans,” said Kristin Pittack, a Senior Water Resources Planner who has been hired through a consulting firm to help these agencies in the Kern subbasin draft a plan that complies with SGMA.

She spoke at the conference about the effort to draft a new plan for compliance.

“The Department of Water Resource submitted a letter to the basin, and it basically outlined deficiencies that they have to comply with,” Pittack said.

Pittack said an underlying problem is that six groundwater sustainability plans were submitted by different GSA’s.

“It really was just them needing to come together to address all of these requirements under SGMA in their plans, consistently.”

She said the Kern County subbasin has had two letters sent by the Department of Water Resources deeming the plans that were submitted deficient.

“This was the second [letter] that was received and once the second letter is received the oversight switches to the [State Water Resources Control Board] and then there’s a public hearing to determine whether the subbasin will be determined to be in probation.”

The hearing deciding whether the Kern subbasin will be put on probation is planned for January 2025.

If put on probation, those pumping groundwater from the Kern subbasin could be required to report usage and could face pumping fees of $45 per acre foot.

“I'm going to be talking about that timeline and what that looks like in anticipation of a State Board hearing in January 2025,” Pittack said.

Pittack says there are fifteen technical consultants working together to come up with a revised plan.

“I think continuing to coordinate with state board staff and state board members themselves is going to be key, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

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