Proposition 218 Election to Fund Local Groundwater Management Passes

Landowners residing in the North Fork Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) voted overwhelmingly in favor of a $10 per acre assessment to cover the costs of locally implementing the new State groundwater regulations. Following the closing of the assessment election public hearing on May 9th, the North Fork Kings GSA Board tabulated and certified the ballot results, which favored the local assessment by 94 percent. A majority vote was needed to pass the per acre benefit assessment; votes were weighted by acreage.

The Board approved and set a rate of $10/acre for the fiscal year 2018-19. Each year, the Board will set a rate not to exceed the $10/acre maximum for the five-year lifespan of the assessment. All landowners within the boundaries of the North Fork Kings GSA will be levied the $10/acre assessment via Fresno and Kings County tax rolls beginning in the fiscal year 2018-19.

Passing the election is a success for the North Fork Kings GSA in keeping SGMA implementation at the local level. The GSA is equipped to move forward with development of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan.

An Engineer’s Report was conducted to set the $10/acre assessment rate. The Report calculates the equitable distribution of the benefit derived from each parcel within the agency upon which such assessments will be levied. The Engineer’s Report discusses benefits of the Agency’s organization, proposed actions, and services provided by the North Fork Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency.

Engineer’s Report

5-Year Budget

Technical Consultant Updates Board on GSP Development, Outlines Sustainable Management Criteria

At the April 25th study session, North Fork Kings GSA technical consultant Kevin Johansen of Provost & Pritchard presented on the current status of Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP)  development. The presentation outlined technical requirements of the GSP and future milestones, a completed GSP draft by January 2019 being the nearest. The goal is for all GSA’s within the Kings subbasin to complete individual GSP drafts by the January 2019 deadline, leaving enough time to coordinate a comprehensive subbasin GSP. Final GSP’s must be submitted to the CA Department of Water Resources (DWR) by the required deadline of January 2020.

The timeline below indicates target deadlines.

 

 

Sustainable Management Criteria

Overview

The Sustainable Management Criteria is one of several Best Management Practices (BMP) guidance documents created by DWR. These documents were created to provide clarification, guidance, and examples to help GSA’s develop the GSP. DWR defines BMP’s as “the practice, or combination of practices, that are designed to achieve sustainable groundwater management and have been determined to be technologically and economically effective, practicable, and based on best available science.” The BMP’s are guidelines for reaching sustainability by 2040 under SGMA.

Provost & Pritchard discussed next steps to implement the Sustainable Management Criteria. Sustainability according to the Sustainable Management Criteria is achieved by avoiding “significant and unreasonable” results across six Sustainability Indicators. The consultants are working to coordinate amongst the seven GSA’s within the Kings subbasin to establish a methodology for defining “significant and unreasonable” results across the Sustainability Indicators. Once established, that methodology will be used by each GSA to set goals and define sustainability success. The six Sustainability Indicators are listed below. Seawater Intrusion is not relevant due to geographic location.

The “significant and unreasonable” results (ie. a specified level of groundwater elevation decline that is unacceptable) are defined by the GSA and must be accepted by DWR. The following metrics set by the GSA and approved by DWR serve as the measuring stick of sustainability across the Sustainability Indicators:

          Minumum Threshold – the lowest result allowed in the worst case scenario. A quantitative value that when exceeded cannot cause an “undesirable result” and thus cannot be an arbitrary                                                               number.

          Undesirable Result – a result defined by the GSA and approved by DWR in line with DWR’s suggested Best Management Practices. Undesirable results will be used by DWR to determine                                                          whether the sustainability goal has been achieved within a basin. Based on minimum threshold exceedances. If caused, sustainability is not successful.

          Measurable Objective – average maintained result over the long-term. Must be met by 2040. Success metric of sustainability across Sustainability Indicators.

Each GSA will set its own results and objectives across the Sustainability Indicators using the methodology coordinated amongst the seven GSA’s in the Kings subbasin. For example, all GSA’s within the Kings Subbasin will use the same methodology to set their groundwater level minimum threshold, but for each GSA the specified level (lowest quantitative groundwater elevation allowed in the worst case scenario) will be different.

Example: Reaching Groundwater Level Stabilization

A closer look at the Sustainability Indicator: Lowering Groundwater Levels, illustrates the path toward sustainability under the Sustainable Management Criteria BMP. The relationship between Lowering Groundwater Levels, undesirable results, and minimum threshold is outlined in the flowchart below.

 

To avoid “significant and unreasonable” results of the Lowering Groundwater Levels, the minimum threshold may not be exceeded to a level that causes undesirable results.

Setting the minimum threshold and measurable objective values for groundwater level sustainability requires a methodology built using three sustainability criteria variables: rate of groundwater declinerate of mitigation, and operational flexibility. The graphic below illustrates these variables in relation to the change groundwater elevation.

Each variable can be determined a number of ways, and once determined are used in relationship with one another to set quantitative groundwater elevation levels for the measurable objective and the minimum threshold.

Rate of groundwater decline is the rate at which groundwater levels have declined over a set period of time, and can be determined using one of three frameworks:

  1. Look at last 20 years, or
  2. Look at worst 20 years, or
  3. Look at hydrologic average period

Rate of mitigation is the rate at which improvements towards the measurable objective are made, and can be determined one of three ways:

  1. Constant (small, equal improvements each year), or
  2. Phased (slow at first with increased rate of progress over time), or
  3. Deferred mitigation (no progress until last 5 years; not recommended, unlikely to be accepted by DWR)

Operational Flexibility is the range of fluctuation in groundwater level allowed that still maintains the measurable objective average, taking into consideration dry versus wet years. The lowest range level of operational flexibility allowed is equal to the minimum threshold. The range of flexibility can be determined one of three ways:

  1. Recent drought or
  2. Other smaller drought or
  3. Conjunctive use operations (coordinated use of groundwater and surface water)

Provost & Pritchard is working to establish the methodology using the variables above. Using the example of Lowering Groundwater Levels, the technical consultants will recommend how to determine the rate of groundwater decline, the rate of mitigation, and the operational flexibility. The variables will then be used to establish the quantitative groundwater elevations for minimum threshold and measurable objective, and the rate at which the objective is achieved.

The North Fork Kings GSA will need to establish “significant and undesirable” metrics for each of the five relevant Sustainability Indicators. Realistic minimum thresholds and measurable objectives are key to reaching sustainability outlined by SGMA.

Additional GSP topics covered during the Study Session include the Water Budget, Monitoring Network, Land Subsidence, and the Proposition 218 Election. The full presentation can be found here: NFKGSA Board Study Session PowerPoint 

Prop 218 Assessment Ballots Mailed

Ballots have been mailed for the Proposition 218 Assessment. An assessment is necessary to generate sufficient revenue to fund local implementation of the unfunded State law, the Groundwater Sustainability Management Act (SGMA) and will be used to cover North Fork Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) costs and expenses associated with the development and implementation of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan.  The proposed maximum annual assessment is $10.00. It is up to the Board to set the annual assessment rate, and the Board may choose to set the annual rate lower than the maximum $10.00 rate proposed.

It is important that the North Fork Kings GSA has adequate funding to keep implementation of SGMA at the local level. Without the necessary funding to fulfill the requirements of the State law, the CA Department of Water Resources and Water Resources Control Board will step in as a backstop to implement the law. State-developed sustainability plans will differ from locally developed plans in cost, detail, and approach to sustainability. This includes but is not limited to: costly fees, higher frequency monitoring and reporting, and pumping restrictions.  State intervention would be many times more costly than what is proposed by the North Fork Kings GSA.

To access resources and additional information on the assessment and its purpose, visit our Prop 218 Groundwater Assessment page.

Ballots must be received prior to the close of the Public Hearing scheduled for 5:30 pm on Wednesday, May 9, 2018, or they will not be counted.

Board Approves 218 Election, Public Hearing May 9

At the January 10, 2018 Board meeting, the Directors of the North Fork Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency approved the Engineer’s Report to conduct a Proposition 218 Election and set a date of May 9 at 5:30 pm for the  public hearing. The Board is requesting landowner approval to levy assessments to fund the activities required to comply with California’s new groundwater law.  The necessary funding for the Agency will be reviewed annually by the Board and, depending on the funds projected to be needed for the year, may be approved up to the maximum $10.00 per acre assessment rate.

The proposed fee must be supported by landowners within the North Fork Kings GSA territory. If not, compliance with the new law will still happen but at a higher cost. The State will impose a fee structure on groundwater pumpers many times more costly than what is proposed by North Fork Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency. You can find the State’s 2018 adopted SGMA fees here.

To view the Engineer’s Report and learn more about the assessment and upcoming outreach events go to www.northforkkings.org/218election.

Board Meeting Date and Location Have Changed

Due to the increased activity and interest related to developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan, the Board has changed the frequency and location of the Board meetings. The Board will be meeting bimonthly on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 5:30 pm. The location has changed to the Riverdale Community Education Center Board Room, 3160 W. Mt. Whitney Ave., Riverdale, Ca 93656.

The meeting dates for 2018 are February 28, April 25, June 27, August 22, October 24, and December 26.

Board Moves Forward with 218 Election Process

At their December 20 meeting, the North Fork Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) board approved the recommendation by their technical consultants, Provost & Pritchard Consulting Group, to consider a 5-year budget and an average cost per acre of $10 as factors for completing an Engineer’s Report, which is the first requirement for setting in motion the process for an assessment election. The election allows landowners within the North Fork Kings territory to vote on an assessment to fund the North Fork Kings GSA activities. The total assessable acreage in the North Fork Kings is approximately 164,000 acres.

At the Board’s October meeting, it was decided a 218 majority-approval election process would be used. This means more than 50 percent of the weighted ballots must vote in the affirmative. The election is land based and the costs for GSA startup and administration and preparation of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan as well as initial implementation will be shared equally by all acreage within the North Fork Kings GSA. It is anticipated that the assessment rate will be set by the Board at their January 10 Board meeting. The maximum that can be set is $10 per acre, but the Board could decide on a lower rate.

Some of the costs in the proposed 5-year budget include GSA administration (staffing, insurance, outreach, office expenses), professional services (engineering, legal, grant writing, 218 election), member agency reimbursement, an enterprise fund for project development and groundwater monitoring, and a 10 percent contingency fund.

If the North Fork Kings GSA is unable to fund its activities and comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the law allows the State to intervene. Intervention means a State version of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan that may be limited to only demand-side solutions, like restrictions on groundwater pumping. It also means the State will impose its very severe SGMA fee structure on groundwater pumpers that is considerably higher than the anticipated rate for the North Fork Kings GSA. You can find the State’s 2018 adopted SGMA fees here.

Below is the proposed schedule for the 218 election process.
Time Frame
Task
Jan. 10, 2018 Board Meeting – approve Engineer’s Report and set assessment rate
Jan/Feb 2018 Conduct public outreach and education
March 2018 Prepare and mail ballots
May 2018 Tabulate received ballots and certify election

Board Approves Funding Strategy For GSP Development & Implementation

Board Approves Funding Strategy For GSP Development & Implementation
At the October Board meeting, the Board approved the recommendation by their technical consultants, Provost & Pritchard Consulting Group, to follow the Proposition 218 process to fund through assessments administrative activities and the development of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan. Corresponding with this recommendation, the Board approved Task Order 3 providing Provost & Pritchard with a budget not to exceed $30,000 to prepare the required engineering report and conduct a 218 election. The engineering report will describe the proposed assessment and determination of benefits that are associated with the assessment.
The Board also approved Task Order 4 providing Provost & Pritchard funding for initial data assessment, overdraft evaluation and modeling review along with other tasks related to drafting a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). The Task Order covers work from October 2107 through the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 23018. During this time, Provost & Prtichard will prepare initial sections of the GSP such as agency information, hydrogeologic conceptual model, current groundwater conditions, existing and proposed groundwater monitoring network, and water budget for the North Fork Kings area. The Task Order authorizes $72,000 for hydrogeology and engineering, $80,000 for inter-basin and intra-basin coordination as required by law, and $30,000 for initial GSP development.

Provost & Pritchard Selected as Technical Engineering Consultants

At their September 6 meeting, the Board approved the recommendation by the Ad Hoc Steering Committee to contract with Provost & Pritchard Consultants for technical engineering consulting services. As part of the contract, the Board approved two task orders. Task Order 1 provides Provost & Pritchard with a budget not to exceed $20,000 for general project management tasks through the end of June 30, 2018.  Task Order 2 provides Provost & Pritchard with a budget not to exceed $8,000 to prepare an assessment of funding strategy alternatives for GSP development and implementation and a recommendation to the Board.

In other actions by the Board, a funding mechanism for Fiscal 2018 budget expenditures was adopted. The total budget of $340,795 will divided among the fifteen member agencies based on each member agency’s acreage.

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