Water agencies seek public input over planned sustainability board


With water providers around California facing a state-mandated deadline of June 30, 2017 to form local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies, the Castaic Lake Water Agency on Thursday announced a January “Stakeholder Forum” at which public input will be sought.

The meeting will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Sycamore Rooms A/B of The Centre, located at 20880 Centre Pointe Parkway in Santa Clarita.

A release from the Castaic Lake Water Agency said the meeting will serve to educate the public about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), as well as provide a forum for citizens to ask questions and be heard about the formation of a local Groundwater Sustainability Agency, or GSA, for the Santa Clara River Valley’s East Sub-basin.

That sub-basin is located primarily in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The SGMA is a package of three bills – Assembly Bill 1739 and Senate Bills 1168 and 1319 – passed in 2014. The act requires that local GSAs be formed by June 30, 2017.

Each GSA would then be responsible for developing a groundwater sustainability plan by 2022 that will achieve sustainability by 2042, with specific plans tailored to particular areas.

“We will have to prepare a more thorough groundwater sustainability plan,’’ Dirk Marks, water resources manager for the Castaic Lake Water Agency, told The Signal.

“The GSA will be the public agency for that, and for managing groundwater. Ultimately, this (Santa Clarita-area) GSA will have various authorities that are needed to manage the groundwater.’’

That would include, Dirks said, various elements of the City of Santa Clarita government, including but not necessarily limited to its planning and taxation arms.

“They could set pumping taxes, acquire metering,’’ he said. “Numerous (city) agencies would be available’’ to the Santa Clarita-area GSA.

Already, a “GSA Formation Work Group’’ exists, consisting of the Castaic Lake Water Agency’s Santa Clarita Water Division; the Los Angeles County Waterworks District #36; Newhall County Water District; Valencia Water Company; and City of Santa Clarita and County of Los Angeles.

According to the Castaic Lake Water Agency, Santa Clarita depends on groundwater for a portion of its annual water supply.

Besides that, Marks said, a sustainability plan provides a safeguard in drought periods, of the kind California has experienced in recent years.

According to Marks, Santa Clarita’s groundwater situation is better off than those of other areas harder hit by the drought – thanks largely to cooperation among local water agencies and general conservation.

But a strong maintenance plan — of the kind a GSA will be tasked to deliver — still is essential, he said.

“There is significant ‘overdrafting’ in other parts of the state (but not in the Santa Clarita area),’’ he said, referring to heavy drains on areas’ groundwater supplies.

He added, speaking of Santa Clarita’s situation, “Our (groundwater) basin, over longer periods, is in balance’’– meaning that, generally, what is used is replaced during the wet season, keeping the overall level fairly stable.

“There are years you may pull in the groundwater hard, but during the winter it replaces,’’ he said. “So over the long term, our basin remains in balance.’’

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