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May Update on Groundwater Sustainability Agency Formation in Sonoma County

Staff are continuing to discuss governance proposals to create one groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) and one groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) in each basin (in Petaluma Valley, Sonoma Valley and Santa Rosa Plain), with coordination between the basins, to be as efficient as possible. Staff are discussing an active role for advisory bodies and exploring ideas for representation and voting on GSA governing boards.

In April, staff began discussing options for interim funding for the GSAs to administer the new entities from startup in June 2017 until they are ready to secure their own funding or revenue. The first significant responsibility of the GSAs will be developing the GSPs, which are detailed technical documents. Potential funding for GSA activities could include grants or fees to pay for development of the GSP, projects, and monitoring.


Throughout California, several entities, including Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) and some agricultural commissions, have raised questions regarding their eligibility to serve as GSAs. The State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) has established an email system to seek clarification on GSA-eligibility.
In Sonoma County, the Sonoma RCD asked for clarification, and learned from the state (on April 13) that it is a GSA-eligible entity. The Sonoma RCD began working with the other GSA-eligible entities on governance issues. Gold Ridge RCD is determining whether to participate in the GSA process. The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission has requested clarification from the state, and is waiting for a response.

Comments on GSP Draft Regulations

The heart of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is development and implementation of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs). These plans are required in all high- and medium-priority basins. The GSPs must identify problems and provide a plan to achieve quantifiable sustainability within 20 years. The GSPs for Santa Rosa Plain, Sonoma Valley and Petaluma Valley basins must be complete by 2022, and the basins much reach sustainability by 2042.
The draft regulations for development of GSPs were released by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) in February. DWR staff presented a summary of the comments and possible revisions at the April 20 meeting of the California Water Commission.
GSA-eligible agency staff reviewed and provided extensive comments on the draft regulations for GSPs that DWR issued.
An overall comment made by local agencies was concern with the prescriptive nature of the regulations. It is ultimately the responsibility of local communities to achieve groundwater sustainability, so the GSAs should have the flexibility to develop programs that will work locally so long as the overall goal of sustainability is met.
All comments, including those made by Sonoma County, Sonoma County Water Agency and the City of Santa Rosa can be found at
The final draft regulations were released on May 10th (go to and will be presented at the May 18 meeting of the California Water Commission. This meeting will be streamed live.


GSA Governance

In May, staff will continue to work on developing recommended guidelines for GSA advisory bodies (committees that will provide advice and guidance to GSA governing boards). Staff will also continue discussing voting options and interim funding for each GSA. The goal is to vet ideas this summer with the public and to share more detailed proposals the governing boards, councils, the basin advisory panels, and the public in September.


Outreach Activities and Public Workshops this Summer

This winter/spring, staff met with representatives from mutual and private water districts; agricultural groups; and the Sonoma County Water Coalition and the Sonoma Ecology Center to discuss their interest in GSA governance.

In April staff provided an update to the Sonoma County Water Coalition and met with the Sonoma Valley basin advisory panel. A meeting will be held with the Santa Rosa Plain basin advisory panel on May 17.

Should staff schedule board and council briefings on GSA activities, we will announce those meetings through this email list, as stakeholders requested during last fall’s public workshops.

Staff anticipate holding public workshops in the summer in the basins to gather community input on the governance and legal structure options.  Information on date, time and location will be sent out shortly.
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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