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HANFORD — Kings County's groundwater management will begin a 20-year transformation in 2020. 

Five local groundwater agencies presented more information behind the groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) in a public outreach meeting Thursday night. 

Groundwater is a significant source of California’s water supply and can be found in groundwater basins, which contain aquifers, according to Bill Pipes, principal geologist of Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions. 

Kings County sits on the Tulare Lake Subbasin, according to Mid-Kings River GSA. About 89 percent of this groundwater supply is used for agriculture, and it will continue to deplete unless action is taken. 

The beginning of groundwater sustainability

State legislature passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014 to prevent increasing overdraft of about 515 groundwater basins and subbasins in the state, including Tulare Lake. 

Five local groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) were formed in order to manage the act and projects that will come from it. These include the South Fork Kings GSA, which covers the area including Lemoore, and the Mid-Kings River GSA, which covers Hanford. 

“The state has prioritized basins based on the importance of groundwater, population and other factors,” Pipes said. “They took the high to medium priority basins and those that they considered in critical overdraft to have an earlier deadline for their GSPs. The goal of SGMA is to achieve groundwater sustainability by 2040.”

The five GSAs created a GSP that has to be finalized by January 2020 per state requirements under SGMA. A draft has been released for residents to make written comments on before a public hearing in December. 

The GSP draft includes projects and actions each GSA needs to take in order for the Tulare Lake Subbasin’s groundwater level to plateau. The subbasin is depleted by 107,000 acre feet of water a year, Pipes said. 

The Tulare Subbasin currently holds 50 to 75 million acre feet of water, but will continue in critical overdraft if no action is taken. 

GSP projects for the next 20 years 

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There are several drafted projects in the GSP that will, if implemented, help Tulare Lake Subbasin’s groundwater levels to plateau, according to the document.

The South Fork Kings (Lemoore area) GSA’s proposed actions include building surface water ponds, land retirement and on-farm improvements. The Mid-Kings River (Hanford area) GSA’s proposed actions include land retirement and recharging basin construction.

The total proposed cost for the GSP projects of Mid-Kings River is just over $103 million. The cost for the South Fork Kings projects are proposed at $61.5 million. 

GSAs have not budgeted for the projects and actions of the GSP, according to the draft. The agencies will “require supplemental funding and assessments”, and might have to secure additional funding from Prop. 218, which was used to cover the cost of the GSP preparation.

The economic impact of the GSP caused concerns during Thursday’s public outreach meeting. Some property owners objected the plan, asking how they will pay for the projects, especially land retirement. 

Pipes said that each GSA will pay for the costs individually and that economic concerns will probably have to be taken up with the state. 

“We are all in this together,” said Gene Kilgore, general manager of Corcoran Irrigation. “Our argument can’t be with each other, our argument is with the state. But we have to do it together.”

Another outreach meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Lemoore Civic Auditorium, 435 C St. The public can attend to learn more about SGMA and the GSP.

The GSP draft is available for public view at four GSA websites and at all GSA locations. Residents can write public comment either through the mail or an email during the public viewing period. 

Comments will be accepted until or at the public hearing at 10 a.m. Dec. 2 in the administration room adjacent to Kings County Board of Supervisors’ Chambers, 1400 W. Lacey Blvd. in Hanford.

Contact information for the five local GSAs:

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