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February 2016 Update on Groundwater Sustainability Agency Formation in Sonoma County

You are receiving this email because you either attended a recent Groundwater Workshop or signed up to receive periodic updates on the new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
Sonoma County Sustainable Groundwater Management Workshop, December 2015In November and December, workshops were held in the three Sonoma County groundwater basins that are immediately subject to SGMA:  Santa Rosa Plain, Sonoma Valley and Petaluma Valley. The presentations and workshop meeting summaries can be found here:
Based on the input from those workshops, the staff of the GSA-eligible entities from each basin have been meeting to discuss governance issues. You will receive a monthly summary of these meetings, plus a summary of any relevant statewide issues. These short updates are designed to keep you informed about local implementation of SGMA.
In December and January, GSA-eligible entity staff met to discuss basin boundaries and to develop governance proposals that would create one groundwater sustainability agency and one groundwater sustainability plan in each basin. These proposals will also include coordination between the basins to be as efficient as possible and coordinate on issues that the basins have in common. Staff anticipate that the next round of public outreach will occur in late spring. Staff will keep you posted through these periodic emails and the web site:
Recommendation to Keep Existing Basin Boundaries at this Time
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2014 specified that high and medium priority groundwater basins (as identified by California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Bulletin 118) are required to implement the legislation.  Three of Sonoma County’s 14 basins were classified as medium priority and are immediately subject to SGMA:  Santa Rosa Plain, Sonoma Valley and Petaluma Valley. SGMA requires that DWR reprioritize the state’s groundwater basin using new criteria.  Before DWR reprioritizes the basins SGMA allows local agencies the opportunity to request adjustments to the basin boundaries.  The requests are due to DWR in March 2016.
After review of available information, local agency staff are recommending that no basin boundary change requests be submitted to DWR during the current application process. Staff recommends that the newly formed GSAs consider basin boundary changes in the next available window (DWR expects this to occur in 2018 or 2019) before developing the required groundwater sustainability plan.
Basin Boundary Considerations in Sonoma County
The Bulletin 118 basins in Sonoma Valley and Santa Rosa Plain generally encompass the valley floors in both basins, and, unlike the current local voluntary groundwater management plans, do not extend to the watershed boundaries. The Petaluma Valley Bulletin 118 boundary also generally encompasses the valley floor.
Within each of the County’s three medium-priority basins there are areas that meet the technical requirements to be considered for basin boundary requests.
While modifications to basin boundaries may ultimately be desirable, the staff working group of GSA-eligible agencies recommends that no basin boundary changes be submitted at this time, for the following reasons:
  • There has not been sufficient time to evaluate the ramifications, including community and local government acceptance for expanding basin boundaries. 
  • GSAs will have the authority to conduct studies and monitoring to more fully evaluate the hydrogeologic connection between the Bulletin 118 basins and adjacent areas that are outside current basin boundaries. After formation, the GSAs will be able to better evaluate whether basin boundaries should expand and whether such areas are necessary to include within SGMA to successfully implement sustainable groundwater management. 
  • The 2016 window will not be the last opportunity to request changes to basin boundaries. SGMA requires DWR to allow for change requests every five years. The next available submission period is planned for either 2018 or 2019 (after GSAs are formed and prior to the deadline for submitting Groundwater Sustainability Plans).
  • The basin boundary change request effort will require significant staff and technical resources. The GSA-eligible agencies feel that, at this time, funds and staff time should be focused on forming the GSAs.
GSA Governance
Staff have also been discussing the governance structure (governing board, advisory group, voting options) and the legal structure (memorandum of understanding or joint powers authority or some other cooperative agreement) for each GSA.  Once staff have developed options, local agency staff will present them at their respective board and council meetings. These meetings will be an opportunity for elected officials and the public to ask questions and provide input.
Public Outreach Activities this Spring
Once staff begin scheduling board and council briefings on GSA governance and legal structures, we will announce those meetings through this email list, as stakeholders requested during last fall’s public workshops. Shortly after these briefings, staff anticipate meeting with existing basin advisory panels in the Santa Rosa Plain and Sonoma Valley and then holding public workshops in the basins to gather community input on the governance and legal structure options.
Thank you for your continued interest in groundwater planning in Sonoma County. For more information or questions, please contact Ann DuBay at the Sonoma County Water Agency,, or 707-524-8378.
Copyright © 2016 Sonoma County Sustainable Groundwater Management, All rights reserved.

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