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Groundwater Sustainability Agencies Host Community Workshops on Short-term Funding Options

Mar 6, 2018

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A series of community workshops are scheduled to update well owners and others on options for short-term funding of Sonoma County’s Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs). The workshops will take place in the three groundwater basins in Sonoma County immediately affected by California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA): Santa Rosa Plain, Sonoma Valley and Petaluma Valley(workshop details below).

Until 2015, when SGMA became law, California was the only western state that did not manage groundwater. The new law was enacted during the state’s historic drought, when some groundwater basins were rapidly being depleted and communities were left without drinking water. The new law requires proactive protection of groundwater basins at the local level to ensure that high-quality water is available for people, farms and wildlife now and into the future.

The purpose of the workshops is to solicit feedback on possible options for funding the day-to-day expenses of the GSAs and the creation of extensive, science-based technical Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) for the Sonoma Valley, Santa Rosa Plain, and Petaluma Valley groundwater basins.

In February, the California Department of Water Resources (the primary state agency responsible for administering SGMA) posted a preliminary list of GSAs eligible to receive grant funding for GSP development. All three local GSAs were recommended to receive $1 million each. While these grants will significantly offset costs of creating GSPs, additional gap funding will be needed.

“Sonoma Valley stakeholders -- including well owners, farmers, environmental groups and businesses -- have been actively engaged for more than a decade in addressing the valley’s groundwater problems through voluntary programs and projects. We hope that these creative thinkers will join us as we take steps to fund the new mandatory state requirements,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, who is the Chairwoman of the Sonoma Valley GSA.

The three GSAs were created in compliance with SGMA, which also mandates the development of GSPs. The GSPs are the heart of the new state law, and will provide information about how much groundwater is available and lay out the steps needed to ensure that groundwater is available to meet foreseeable needs for the next 20 years. The GSPs must be goal-oriented and science-based, with strong technical foundations.

“Groundwater is a critical resource to residents, small farmers, grape growers and wildlife. People who care about this precious resource should join us as we determine how to pay for managing groundwater so that it’s available now and in the future,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who is the Chairwoman of the Santa Rosa Plain GSA.

SGMA allows GSAs to levy fees to pay for planning, programs and operations. Possible funding options could include charges on parcels, acres, wells or groundwater use. Local government agencies and special districts provided start-up funding for the first two years of the GSAs’ formation and operation. The boards of these agencies agreed that each GSA must become self-funded beginning in its third year of operation, from July 1, 2019 through at least 2022, when the GSP is due.

“Clean, plentiful groundwater is a fundamental resource for a healthy community, including the Petaluma Valley. We need to manage this critical resource effectively and efficiently to minimize costs, while ensuring that groundwater isn’t depleted,” said Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt, who is the Chairman of the Petaluma Valley GSA.

In addition to the Boards of Directors, each GSA has an advisory committee, comprised of people representing stakeholders throughout the basins.

“Groundwater is critical in all aspects of local agriculture. We are looking forward to collaborating with the GSA to ensure that future generations have the ability to pursue a livelihood that contributes economically and socially to our communities.” said Matt Stornetta, an agricultural representative on the Sonoma Valley GSA Advisory Committee.

“In-stream water and groundwater are interdependent, requiring accurate information of groundwater quality and availability to ensure a sustainable supply for all natural and human uses. A healthy aquifer is critical in maintaining, and in some cases regenerating, our bountiful lands,” said Rue Furch, an environmental representative on the Santa Rosa Plain GSA Advisory Committee.

“Thousands of families locally are dependent on wells for drinking water. We need to make sure that well owners have access to enough clean, drinkable water, now and into the future,” said Lindsey Strain, a well owner who serves on the Petaluma Valley GSA Advisory Committee.

WORKSHOP INFORMATION

March 14 - Sonoma Valley Workshop

5:30-7:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 14

Sonoma Veterans Memorial Building, 126 1st St W, Sonoma

 

March 21 - Santa Rosa Plain Workshop

5:30-7:30, Wednesday, March 21

Finley Community Center, 2060 W College Ave, Santa Rosa

 

March 29 - Petaluma Valley Workshop

5:30-7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 29

Petaluma Community Center, 320 N McDowell Blvd, Petaluma


While workshop formats will be similar in each groundwater basin, some content will be specific to that basin. People needing accommodations should contactann.dubay@scwa.ca.gov or call 524-8378 as soon as possible.

A website, www.sonomacountygroundwater.org includes up-to-date information on SGMA and a place to sign up for more information.

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