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Author: Cristel Tufenkjian

South Fork Kings Approves Online Portal to Support Well Registration, Future Sustainability Programs

At their October Board meeting, the South Fork Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board discussed and approved a proposal by MLJ Environmental to develop an online portal. The immediate use of the portal will be to register existing wells within the boundaries of the South Fork Kings GSA. The portal can be expanded to support future sustainability programs.

To provide a user-friendly experience for landowners, the portal will be similar in function to the Kings River Water Quality Coalition member portal. Coalition members will have the ability to streamline well registration using their member portal to share contact information and other data, such as crop, parcel, and management practices with the South Fork Kings GSA portal. No data from the Coalition member would be accessed or shared with the South Fork Kings GSA without the member’s consent. The South Fork Kings GSA will provide instructional workshops and tools to assist landowners with account setup and use.

It is anticipated the portal will be available for use by early 2023. Those landowners or residents who use less than 2 acre-feet (an acre foot is approximately 326,000 gallons) per year of groundwater will not be required to register their wells. The contract with MLJ Environmental is a 4-year commitment with a monthly subscription cost of $3,400. If additional GSAs decide to subscribe to the portal with MLJ Environmental, the monthly subscription will be reduced based on the number of participating GSAs. Currently, one additional GSA, the North Fork Kings GSA, has approved participating in the portal subscription.

Tulare Lake Subbasin Not Compliant with SGMA According to State

In early 2022, the Department of Water Resources completed its evaluation of the Tulare Lake Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) and determined that it was Incomplete and that the five Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) were required to address deficiencies identified by DWR. The deficiencies centered around the Sustainable Management Criteria for degraded water quality, land subsidence, and the chronic lowering of groundwater levels. In response to this determination, the Tulare Lake Subbasin GSAs submitted a revised Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) to DWR in July of this year.

Four of the five GSAs including South Fork Kings, Mid-Kings River, El Rico, and Tri-County Water Authority adopted the same submitted revised GSP; however, the Southwest Kings GSA adopted a revised GSP with the following additional language:

 “Surface Storage of Groundwater – To the extent allowable by law, the GSAs will work with local and state regulatory agencies to prevent the inefficient storage of groundwater in shallow basins. This practice results in a significant loss of the pumped groundwater to evaporation. Avoiding these losses to evaporation would help in reducing groundwater pumping from the deep aquifer and lessen subsidence.”

Because the Southwest Kings GSA approval of the GSP is subject to additional language not found in the version adopted by the other four GSAs, DWR determined that the Southwest Kings GSA adopted a different GSP. As a result, the Tulare Lake Subbasin is no longer managed by multiple GSAs through a single GSP, but by multiple GSPs implemented by multiple GSAs. Consequently, a coordination agreement is required between the two GSPs.

The DWR reached out for a consultation with the State Water Resources Control Board as part of the intervention process for non-compliant GSPs. The State Water Board requested that DWR continue to review the revised GSPs for the Tulare Lake Subbasin to determine whether the technical deficiencies in the originally submitted GSP have been addressed. The State Water Board anticipates that it will wait to exercise its SGMA intervention authorities with respect to the Tulare Lake Subbasin until DWR completes its full technical review of the GSPs, which is currently scheduled for completion in early 2023. In the meantime, DWR asked that the South Fork Kings and the other GSAs in the Tulare Lake Subbasin continue with implementation of their GSPs.

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