(Photo: California State Resources Control Board)

By Natalie Willis, Reporter, Valley Ag Voice

The California State Water Board placed the Tulare Lake Subbasin on probation as a result of inadequate groundwater sustainability plans in the critically over-drafted basin. On April 16, several community members, groundwater pumpers, and groundwater sustainability agencies gathered at CalEPA headquarters to present their comments to the board.

The staff of the SWB recommended that board members place the Tulare Lake Subbasin on probation. Deficiencies in the GSP centered on groundwater levels, subsidence, and quality.  While probation is meant to be temporary, it will remain in place until the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies address the issues within the subbasin.

Tulare Lake Subbasin operates under five GSAs — Mid-Kings River, South Fork Kings, Southwest Kings, El Rico GSA, and the Tri-County Water Authority. The GSAs collaborated on one GSP which was submitted in 2020, found inadequate in 2022, resubmitted in 2022, and deemed inadequate again. This triggered the process of state intervention.

The final staff report and subsequent recommendation to the board explained that the subbasin cannot reach sustainability by 2040 under the current GSP.

“Designating the subbasin probationary is critical for getting the subbasin back on track to achieve sustainability by 2040,” the report said.

Under probation, all people who extract groundwater must report their well location and capacity of each well, monthly extraction volumes, and place and purpose for each use. This probationary status is the first of its kind, but a probationary hearing for the Tule Subbasin will take place on Sept. 17.

Now that the probation has been approved, people who draw from the Tulare Lake Subbasin will be charged $300 annually per well as well as a $20 fee per acre-foot of water. Additionally, a 25% late fee will be imposed per month.

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