We officially closed out the precipitation year on June 30 with a very wet total of 47.25 inches, which is 70.5% of our historic normal of 67 inches in the greater Laytonville area.
So we are in great shape compared to most of California where drought conditions range from “Severe Drought” to “Exceptional Drought” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The rain that fell during the July Fourth holiday period was a rare phenomenon.
The historic average for month of July is only nine-hundredth (0.09) of an inch. The two-days of light rain totaled a little over a quarter of an inch at 0.26 inch.
Proposed Regulations Of Water Wells
The governor of our state and the state legislature are getting into the act of exercising never-before-seen public control of privately owned groundwater wells.
Assemblyman Steve Bennett (D-Ventura) and representatives from Community Water Center (CWC) are sponsoring legislation that would change the way new and expanded water wells are approved in California, and focusing on areas that are experiencing rapid decline in groundwater reserves.
“New water wells and groundwater extractions are being approved without adequate analysis of their impact on the drinking water of disadvantaged communities,” said Bennett. “Approval without that analysis can cause significant negative impacts on over-drafted water basins and disadvantaged communities drinking water.”
Bennett’s bill, AB 2201, took a step forward last week as it survived a fight in a California state Senate committee.
The proposed law passed the California state Senate Governance and Finance Committee on a 3-1 vote. The legislation now moves to the California state Senate Appropriations Committee.
Bennett told the committee that the goal of the bill is to provide some teeth to groundwater sustainability agencies (GSA), which are tasked with coming up with sustainable groundwater usage plans under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act passed in 2014, to oversee new and expanded wells.
Under the proposed legislation, any new or modified groundwater well proposed in water basins that are deemed medium or high-burden basins will need to undergo a review by the local GSA for review and public comment. After review the local GSA will then determine whether the new well fits within the SGMA plan for that basin or if the proposed well would not be sustainable.
“Right now GSAs do not have any teeth to either review new wells or stop new wells from going in,” Bennett told the committee. “This legislation would provide the GSA some power to determine whether a proposed well meets the goals of SGMA and whether it should be approved or not.”
In the past few months, Governor Gavin Newsom has issued several Executive Orders that do not allow new wells to be drilled. But those orders are specific to this drought period and will sunset when the drought is deemed over.
According to Court News Service, opponents argued that the proposed legislation would have the state of California impose rules on new and existing wells from Sacramento and take away any local oversight. Bennett disagreed with that contention and said the legislation would provide local control and oversight as the GSA knows their area the best.
“There are a number of out of state and well-monied investors coming in buying up land which has had no wells; they then plant almonds and dig a number of wells with no oversight of whether the new wells meet the SGMA goals, leading to basins being further overdrawn,” Bennett told the committee.
Since the legislation was introduced, it has been amended a number of times and because of those amendments, a number of farming groups have now changed positions and support the legislation. The amendments exclude low-flow wells for domestic use and shallow wells for existing small farmers from needing to undergo the GSA review.
Even with the amendments, a number of farm bureaus, central California counties, communities and other groups expressed their opposition to the proposed legislation. A number of GSAs said the current SGMA provides opportunities to block future wells if they prove to be unsustainable and would like time to go through that process before legislation is passed.
Both sides agreed that the continued issuance of executive orders by Governor Newsom banning new well drilling is not the way to solve the problem.
“The democratic process allows for conversations like this to happen and for changes to be made to address concerns raised by opponents. This is a better process than the current executive order which underwent no consultation and provides only a short-term solution. This legislation will make sure that there is enough groundwater for both farmers and communities for future generations,” Bennett told the Committee.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org)