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Army Corps of Engineers declares low-level flood release at Pine Flat Dam

North Fork Kings GSA encourages growers to contact their surface water district and take water.

The Army Corps of Engineers recently declared a low-level flood release at Pine Flat Dam to begin Saturday, May 4. This low-level flood release will allow Kings River service agencies to receive additional surface water for deliveries. The North Fork Kings GSA encourages landowners to contact their surface water provider to receive this additional water for irrigation and recharge. Landowners who take water for groundwater recharge will receive future groundwater extraction credits from the North Fork Kings GSA. Learn more about receiving credits for groundwater recharge here.

Landowners are urged to act now while flood release water is available.


 

Data proves the 2023 Water Year was a win, but the Kings Subbasin stays focused on the hard work ahead to meet groundwater milestones

The latest Annual Report data casts a promising light on the Kings Subbasin’s sustainability progress. Following a blitz of repeated storms resulting in the most historic snowpack the Kings River watershed has seen on record, the abundant surface water supply drove down groundwater use 56% compared to the previous water year, and down 63% compared to Water Year 2021.  

Nearly 2 million acre-feet of surface water was used across the region, a quarter of which was sunk back into the underground aquifer by Kings Subbasin agencies through direct recharge efforts.

Thanks to the reduction in groundwater use and 500,000 acre-feet of groundwater recharge, the aquifer in the Kings Subbasin is estimated to have recovered 1.28 million acre-feet of groundwater storage.

“We needed the 2023 Water Year after three dry years. It helped us begin to dig ourselves out of the hole. Our groundwater storage loss was starting to add up,” stated Kassy Chauhan, North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) Executive Director.

Kings Subbasin Water Year Type (2015-2023)
Kings Subbasin Annual Report Table 2-1

CID’s Adams & Academy Recharge Basin. Thanks to special provision from the State, CID put up temporary berms at the site while still under construction in 2023 so the site could be used for flood control and recharge.

The recharge volumes can in major part be credited to agencies in the Kings Subbasin who put down pavement on the road toward sustainability through new project construction when the SGMA clock started in 2020, the year Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) were first submitted to the State marking the start of SGMA implementation.

Since 2020, 26 new recharge basin projects have been built on over 1,050 acres of land adding 25,500 acre-feet of new recharge capacity to park and sink surplus surface water.

“Water managers in the Kings Subbasin made things happen while the opportunity presented itself,” reflected Phil Desatoff, Central Kings GSA General Manager. “The Annual Report numbers show that it made a difference. In Consolidated Irrigation District we sank over 300,000 acre-feet thanks to sandy soils and favorable geology, and a high tide floats all boats. It helps the whole subbasin.”

Despite boots on the ground efforts to capitalize on nature’s bounty, the Kings Subbasin’s seven GSA managers know there is more work to be done to keep on track with 2040 sustainability targets. The recent dry years prompted high volumes of pumping to meet total water demands, and this latest wet year is not enough to make up the deficit.

While areas in the subbasin did see substantial groundwater level improvements, it is anticipated levels will continue to fluctuate over the course of SGMA implementation as hydrologic conditions continue to vacillate between dry and wet. This is planned for in the GSPs, but recovery versus overdraft over time needs to land on the trajectory toward sustainability goals.

“We need to stay ready to take advantage of any and all future recharge opportunities, in addition to deploying other management tools that will reduce reliance on groundwater if we are going to stay on track with the sustainability goals we have committed to in the GSPs,” stated Chauhan. “The commitment by individual districts to build projects and do recharge is essential. Ideally the individual water users are in the mix playing a role as well.”

Fresno Irrigation District (FID) just completed another recharge project adding nearly 50 acres to its portfolio of 900 existing acres and plans to develop another 400 acres into basins over the next several years. Even with all its planned recharge capacity, the North Kings GSA overlying FID sees the role of the individual landowner becoming increasingly important. As a member agency of the North Kings, FID is partnering to help educate growers on sustainable irrigation practices like keeping flood lines in tact to take extra surface water when available, but using drip when water is scarce. 

Just to the south in the North Fork Kings GSA, growers are encouraged to take water during flood releases for on-farm recharge. The GSA has launched a well registration program on an online SGMA portal called Watermark, where landowners will be able to view and manage groundwater allocations in the future. Although not yet developed, allocations will come into play down the road to promote water use efficiency and reduce groundwater demand.

FID’s Kenneson & Sanchez Basin, completed March 2024, adds an estimated 960 acre-feet of annual recharge benefit.

With the 2040 long view in mind, the Kings Subbasin’s nearest goal is to maintain its GSP approval from the State. The GSAs remain focused on coordination to address the CA Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) 12 corrective actions by the 2025 GSP Update.

Groundwater studies on interconnected streams and the confined aquifer will be undertaken this year as part of addressing DWR’s concerns, in addition to launching a new program focused on mitigating the impacts of groundwater level decline on domestic well owners. The latter program involves a heavy administrative lift by the GSAs to coordinate and get it off the ground and running in the coming months. 

2024 Groundwater Recharge Project Registration Form Now Available for Landowners

The North Fork Kings GSA has updated their recharge project registration form for landowner-driven recharge operations in 2024. The 2024 form is now available online here.

Landowners who submitted forms in 2023 will need to submit again under the 2024 recharge project registration form to receive credit for any 2024 recharge.

The recharge project registration form benefits landowners within the North Fork Kings GSA who conduct intentional groundwater recharge using surface water in 2024 and wish to seek future groundwater extraction credits. Being aware of the recharge projects allows the North Fork Kings GSA to give proper credit to stakeholders performing recharge once policies governing groundwater credits are in place. While the GSA cannot issue recharge credits at this time, it will track the amount of water recharged using this form. The GSA will work with the appropriate surface water provider to determine the amount of recharge credit to be provided based on the recharge policy of the surface water provider.

The North Fork Kings GSA will use the registration form to recognize the efforts of landowners in recharging the groundwater. The GSA gives landowners freedom to operate their own groundwater recharge project operations in collaboration with their surface water provider. Landowners are encouraged to reach out to their irrigation district managers about maximizing surface water deliveries for groundwater recharge projects.

Beyond landowner credits, recharge project registration helps quantify the current capacity available for groundwater recharge within the North Fork Kings GSA to help the agency assess progress toward sustainability goals.

Under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the North Fork Kings GSA is working to address groundwater overdraft and stabilize groundwater levels. A key component of achieving sustainability, while striving for continued viability of irrigated agriculture in the area, is to increase the use of available surface water as groundwater use is reduced. One way to increase the water supply is by capturing excess surface water when available and storing it underground through active recharge projects.

The North Fork Kings GSA thanks every landowner playing an active role by conducting recharge activities. Privately operated recharge projects help the GSA maintain local control over sustainability goals, while replenishing the aquifer.

Stakeholders can access the registration form on the website here, and should email the completed form to jmendes@northforkkings.org. For questions on 2024 recharge projects, call the GSA at (559) 632-7032.


 

Update for Kings County Landowners: Groundwater Management Status in the North Fork Kings GSA

KINGS COUNTY LANDOWNERS, you may have seen information published in the news or heard from your neighbors about the State Water Resources Control Board’s (State Board) decision on April 16th to put the Tulare Lake Subbasin on probation, meaning the State Board has intervened to manage groundwater. The North Fork Kings GSA is located in the Kings Subbasin, and currently has an approved Groundwater Sustainability Plan and IS NOT going through the probationary hearing process with the State Board. Groundwater will continue to be managed locally for parcels within the North Fork Kings GSA. If you have questions or concerns, contact the North Fork Kings GSA at our new number (559) 632-7032.

Well Registration Program Update

  • 362 agricultural and domestic wells registered
  • 50% of North Fork Kings GSA total acreage has been enrolled in the well registration program on Watermark
  • 728 parcels have been claimed to Watermark user accounts

Thank you to those who have participated in the new well registration program over the last several months. Well registration is taking place on Watermark, a new online SGMA tool for landowners.

Register your well(s) today! For step-by-step instructions on how to register, visit northforkkings.org/watermark

For more information about well registration, visit northforkkings.org/watermark. If you have any questions, contact the GSA at (559) 632-7032 or help@northforkkings.org.

General Manager’s Note from the Spring Newsletter

Justin Mendes, General Manager

We have finished the first quarter of 2024 and I wanted to provide the latest updates to North Fork Kings GSA landowners. Our top priority is maintaining our approved status with the State, the CA Department of Water Resources (DWR), which we will achieve by addressing the corrective actions they submitted with our Groundwater Sustainability Plan approval letter. Those actions focus on 3 important items:

  1. Domestic Well Mitigation,
  2. Confined Aquifer Study, and
  3. Interconnected Surface Waters.

These items need to be addressed by January 31, 2025, and are crucial to maintaining local control over SGMA regulations. Some neighboring GSAs will be before the State Water Resources Control Board in April for failing to meet DWR’s requirements. While we sympathize with our neighbors, it is not a process we want to endure.

The studies and implementation of the 3 items is going to come at a cost. The Domestic Well Mitigation program itself needs a
dedicated funding stream through at least 2040. The Board of Directors is fully committed to utilizing reserves to keep landowner assessments low, but we will need additional funding to carry out the program to 2040. At the March Board meeting the board voted to conduct a Prop 218 election that will conclude with a Public Hearing at the June 26 Board meeting.

The GSA plans to hold multiple workshops to go over the Prop 218 proposal and the 5-year budget of the GSA. There is no silver bullet solution to groundwater sustainability. The GSA is studying as much as we can to provide quality analysis at an effective cost. I invite you to stay engaged and learn more by signing up for our email list (you can do so at northforkkings.org), attending an upcoming workshop, or giving us a call. Please reach out if you have questions or would like to discuss the election and our priorities as a GSA at (559) 632-7032.

Board moves forward on Proposition 218 election and invites landowners to participate and stay engaged

The North Fork Kings GSA Board of Directors approved the Engineer’s Report at their March 27 meeting, a required initial step of conducting a Proposition 218 (Prop 218) election.

Through this Prop 218 election, landowners are being asked to approve a land-based assessment rate with an $18/acre per year maximum. The Board of Directors will set the rate annually and is planning on drawing some money from reserves to gradually increase the assessment over the next five years. In its proposed budget, the Board plans to start with a rate of $6 per acre in fiscal year 2024-25, escalating each year until it reaches the $18 per acre maximum.

The table below shows the proposed budget and schedule for assessment rates over the next five years and the funding categories.

Funding local groundwater efforts

In 2023, North Fork Kings GSA received approval on its Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), marking a significant milestone for the agency and its landowners by allowing the North Fork Kings GSA to locally carry out sustainability efforts.

This approval gives the North Fork Kings GSA the benefit of implementing its GSP at a pace that allows for landowner and stakeholder input and awareness on future projects and programs. Without pressure of immediate State intervention, the North Fork Kings GSA can develop required management actions, like groundwater allocations, with a measured and methodical multi-year approach.

Although approval of the GSP was received, additional funding is necessary to implement GSP activities and programs essential to keep the North Fork Kings GSA’s good standing with the State. Along with GSP approval, DWR included 12 corrective actions the GSA must address in its 2025 GSP update. SGMA is an unfunded mandate, leaving it up to the local GSA to generate funding to meet its requirements. To adequately address these actions and maintain its approved status, the North Fork Kings GSA needs the funding proposed through this Prop 218 election.

Previous funding efforts

In 2018, the North Fork Kings GSA passed a Prop 218 election with 94% of votes in support of the assessment. The previous election authorized the agency to assess up to a maximum of $10 per acre per year but had a five-year sunset concluding with fiscal year 2022-2023. Reserves were used to fund GSA activities in fiscal year 2023-2024. Due to this sunset of the previous authorization, additional landowner authorization is needed to fund the North Fork Kings GSA’s activities moving forward.

The North Fork Kings GSA has been careful to steward landowner dollars collected from the prior Prop 218 authorization, using funding to initiate the implementation of state sustainability requirements and develop a successful GSP. Additionally, the agency did not collect any assessments in 2023 because it had enough in its reserves for GSA administration, continue GSP implementation activities, and begin work on addressing the corrective actions identified by DWR.

More information coming soon

More information on Prop 218 will be made available soon. Landowners should be on the lookout for the Prop 218 ballot and notice in their mailboxes in early May. Ballots must be submitted by the Public Hearing on June 26.

For more information, visit www.northforkkings.org/218election where you can access the Engineers Report and proposed budget for the Prop 218 election. Additional resources and information will become available on the Prop 218 webpage in the coming weeks. We invite you to stay engaged by signing up for our email list if you have not already (you can do so at northforkkings.org), attending an upcoming workshop, or contacting us with questions at 559-632-7032.

Please also share the news with your neighbor, and invite them to stay engaged.

Join us at an upcoming workshop

Attend an upcoming Prop 218 educational workshop at the Riverdale Memorial Hall, located at 3085 W. Mt. Whitney Ave, Riverdale, CA 93656, to learn more about the Prop 218 election:

Workshop #1: Tuesday, May 21, 5:30 – 7:00 PM (Interpretación disponible en español)

Workshop #2: Wednesday, June 5, 8:00 – 9:30 AM

NEW Landowner Well Registration Program

The North Fork Kings GSA has launched a well registration program. Landowners’ prompt action in the program is important to keep local control of groundwater management. The well registration program is most immediately tied to a State-required groundwater study on the confined aquifer. Over the next several months, the North Fork Kings GSA is conducting this study to better understand land subsidence and groundwater flows. Landowner participation is an important part of completing the study by fall 2024.

Wells can be registered online via a new web-based platform called Watermark.

To participate in this initiative, landowners must activate their Watermark account and register wells using a short form within Watermark.

📪 LANDOWNERS! Letters were mailed on January 31st containing your unique verification codes. These codes are necessary to add your parcels and complete the registration process.

Your well registration helps keep groundwater management local.

Attend an Upcoming Workshop to Learn More and Receive Assistance

Upcoming Workshops on the Well Registration Program will provide an opportunity for landowners to:

  • Understand more about the well registration program
  • Receive one-on-one assistance with activating your Watermark account
  • Ask questions

Event location:

Riverdale Memorial District, 3085 W Mt. Whitney Ave, Riverdale, CA 936356

Event dates:

  • February 21, 2024, 7:30 AM – 10:30 AM
  • March 7, 2024, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
  • March 20, 2024, 7:30 AM – 10:30 AM

Please bring the letter than contains your verification codes and a laptop to receive assistance during the event.

For more information about well registration, visit northforkkings.org/watermark. If you have any questions, contact the GSA at (559) 242-6118 or help@northforkkings.org.

Record water year propels Kings River area toward groundwater sustainability

Project investments pay off as Kings Subbasin recharges 500,000 acre-feet back into the aquifer during historic 2023 Kings River water year

Following a multi-year drought, the Kings River ended the 2023 water year (October 2022 – September 2023) with a record-shattering 4.5 million acre-feet of runoff.

Flood releases from Pine Flat moved water through Kings River channels and water purveyor headgates for 162 days straight. It was a golden opportunity for agencies within the Kings Subbasin, encompassing portions of Fresno, Tulare, and Kings counties, to make strides toward groundwater sustainability goals.

Kings River water districts, canal companies, and growers maximized surface water diversions during the action-packed year to recharge roughly 500,000 acre-feet back into the aquifer.

Interactive Storymap

Learn more about the historic water year and some of the projects that made record recharge numbers possible.

The seven Kings Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) and their members have been preparing for a year like this since January 2020, when they submitted their first plans to the State outlining the roadmap to sustainability by 2040 under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

The Kings Subbasin strategy to build recharge basins during the drought paid off.

Since submitting their plans in 2020, the GSAs and their members have collectively invested in over 1,000 acres of prime groundwater recharge land to construct 25 dedicated recharge basins yielding over 24,500 acre-feet of new recharge capacity annually. These basins are either constructed, in progress, or will be completed over the next several years. During the 2023 historic water year, the agencies christened their newly constructed basins with flood waters for the first time.

Kings Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agencies

The efforts of the past several years prove the GSAs are walking the talk, sincere in the race toward groundwater sustainability.

The Kings Subbasin is located in the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley and comprised of seven Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs): Central Kings, James, Kings River East, McMullin Area, North Fork Kings, North Kings, and South Kings. The GSAs are implementing individual Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) and operate under a Coordination Agreement to achieve groundwater sustainability together by 2040 under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), signed into law in 2014. 

Wettest Year on Record: 2022-2023 Water Year

Runoff on the Kings River this past water year was the highest on record with just over 4.5 million acre-feet of runoff (approximately 265% of average). The water year began October 1, 2022, and concluded September 30, 2023. Growers and member agencies within the North Fork Kings GSA were able to optimize recharge efforts and make use of available facilities to capture surface water during flood releases in addition to using more surface water for irrigation in place of pumped groundwater. Notably, North Fork Kings GSA member agency Laguna Irrigation District took advantage and successfully recharged 15,524 acre-feet (AF) in District owned recharge basins, while an additional 26,171 AF was recharged by landowners through dedicated recharge efforts.

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