Leave groundwater management to local water experts – Marin Independent Journal
Assemblyman Steve Bennett’s House Bill 2201, which would create a new permanent permitting process for groundwater wells, negatively affects local water districts, municipalities and the agricultural community from California.
Despite recent amendments to the wording of the bill, AB 2201 would impose a strict new mandate on how groundwater sustainability agencies are to operate. The bill removes the ability of local groundwater experts to decide for themselves which management options best suit local conditions. Instead, the bill would require local experts to make specific findings and determinations for new and modified groundwater wells before they are licensed.
Sacramento lawmakers must hand over groundwater management to local experts.
The law on sustainable groundwater management, passed in 2014, recognized that it is essential that water problems are managed and solved at the local level. When he signed the law, the governor at the time. Jerry Brown has stated that “Groundwater management in California is best done locally”. The law achieves this by requiring that individual local basin groundwater sustainability plans identify challenges and solutions unique to each local groundwater basin.
As Ventura County Supervisor, Bennett supported strong local groundwater management. He was instrumental in passing Ventura County Wells Ordinance No. 4468, which established policies to ensure that wells are “executed, operated, and destroyed in such a manner that groundwater are not contaminated or polluted, and that water obtained from water wells will be usable and will not jeopardize the health, safety or well-being of the Ventura County community. »
But through AB 2201, Bennett ignored the importance of local management and expertise in favor of a “one-size-fits-all” national authority, adding yet another layer of bureaucracy to an already arduous process.
Just three months ago, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-7-22 to protect health, safety and the environment during this drought emergency. The order directs local agencies to work cooperatively with local groundwater agencies when reviewing applications for new and modified wells. Under this order, public bodies cannot approve a permit for a new groundwater well (or to modify an existing well) in medium or high priority basins subject to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. without first obtaining written verification from the local groundwater agency that the proposed well would not negatively impact the sustainability goal for that specific basin.
AB 2201 would codify – and complicate – the Governor’s Executive Order guidelines.
Currently, an advisory committee of more than 80 representatives from a wide range of industries and geographies within the state, each with expertise in permitting, design, construction, maintenance and disposal of wells, revises state well standards to ensure the protection of California’s groundwater quality. At the same time, municipalities, water users and groundwater managers are actively working on the challenges of implementing the directives of the decree.
We need to allow our local community experts the time and opportunity to work through the ordinance and upcoming changes to state well standards to determine how these requirements will be implemented in their own basins before the legislature complicates the process by permanently reducing guaranteed local control. in the original act.
AB 2201 creates more confusion in the already complicated process of sustainably managing local groundwater basins. Well, plaintiffs would face significant new costs. Counties and groundwater agencies would face increased threats of legal challenges over well permitting decisions.
AB 2201 will not increase water accessibility for small poor communities. By adding permit and reporting requirements, the bill adds prohibitive burdens on small communities, making it harder for them to provide water to their residents.
The bill takes permitting decisions out of the hands of local experts and places them in the hands of politically appointed officials with little or no expertise in groundwater management and even less knowledge of the local community.
We must maintain local groundwater management and sustainability planning—including permitting and enforcement—as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and other state laws. Local county agencies and water districts understand the needs of their communities. They have the technical expertise and knowledge to make critical decisions to ensure groundwater sustainability in collaboration with local GSAs.
Louise Lampara is the executive director of the nonprofit Ventura County Coalition for Labour, Agriculture and Business. Distributed by CalMatters.org.