19. CONSIDER ADOPTION OF A RESOLUTION DECLARING THE DISTRICT’S INTENT TO PREPARE A GROUNDWATER MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR THE SEASIDE GROUNDWATER BASIN AND ADOPTING A STATEMENT OF PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
Meeting Date: March 15, 2004 Budgeted: N/A
Program/Line Item No.: N/A
Staff Contact: Joe Oliver/ Cost Estimate: N/A
General Counsel Approval: N/A
Committee Recommendation: N/A
CEQA Compliance: N/A
SUMMARY: The proposed resolution, Exhibit 19-A, declares the District’s intent to prepare a groundwater management plan for the Seaside Groundwater Basin (SGB) and provide for broad public participation in developing the plan. Exhibit 19-B shows the area overlying the SGB. The plan is needed to provide a framework for protection, preservation, and enhancement of the groundwater resources in the SGB for current and future beneficial uses and prevent undesirable impacts such as seawater intrusion from occurring. Development of the plan is consistent with the District’s enabling legislation and with the District’s ongoing hydrogeologic investigations and groundwater quantity and quality monitoring programs in the SGB. The plan will be based on guidelines required and recommended by recent State legislation (SB 1938) and include Basin Management Objectives; components related to the monitoring and management of groundwater levels, groundwater quality, groundwater banking, and land surface subsidence; monitoring protocols to track changes in groundwater levels and quality; a plan to involve other local agencies, jurisdictions, and purveyors in the SGB in the development of the plan; a map depicting the area overlying the SGB; and rules related to the implementation of the plan. In addition, to assure support and successful implementation, the District will provide ample opportunity for public involvement in development of the groundwater management plan, including formation of an Advisory Group of interested parties and public hearings.
RECOMMENDATION: Following public comment and Board discussion, staff recommends that the Board adopt the proposed resolution declaring its intent to prepare a groundwater management plan for the Seaside Groundwater Basin and adoption of a statement of public participation.
IMPACT OF STAFF AND RESOURCES: The full extent of the impact of proceeding with development of a groundwater management plan for the SGB on staff and resources is uncertain at this time and will depend on the amount of work performed by District staff versus consultants and the timeline for completion. If this item is approved, an updated work plan will be presented as part of the planning process for the District’s Fiscal Year 2005 Budget.
Chronology. Recent concerns regarding increased levels of groundwater extractions by California-American Water Company (Cal-Am) and non Cal-Am pumpers in the SGB and the effect of this increased pumping on the health of the basin date from September 1998, when then-Director Ely raised a number of concerns (Exhibit 19-C). In response to Director Ely’s request that this issue be placed on the Board’s agenda as soon as possible, staff prepared and presented a status report on production from the SGB to the Board in November 1998 (Exhibit 19-D). In September 2000, in response to continued increased pumping and the possibility of additional pumping occurring near the coast, the District Board conducted a workshop on Seaside Basin groundwater management.
In December 2000, based on information provided at the September 2000 workshop, the District Board directed staff to retain a consultant to help prepare a SGB management plan in coordination with major existing and future pumpers in the basin. The Board indicated that the plan should consolidate known information, confirm existing estimates of reliable yield, consider yield estimates for smaller subunits of the basin, assess the condition of the basin or subbasins, develop management schemes, and assess potential for basin recharge. This effort was postponed as staff time was needed to facilitate testing of the Santa Margarita Test Injection Well (SMTIW) and to oversee consultants working on the Phase III hydrogeologic assessment of the Laguna Seca subarea of the SGB. In September 2001, at a strategic planning session, the Board identified development of a management plan for the SGB as one of the District’s top five priorities.
In January 2002, at the Board’s strategic planning workshop, staff provided an update on development of a SGB management plan. This update listed primary plan objectives and presented a work plan that included key assumptions, decision points, project schedule, project costs, funding sources, coordinating agencies, and alternative approaches. In February 2002, at a follow-up strategic planning session, staff provided more specific information regarding the Board’s authority to manage groundwater use in the SGB, various management options (i.e., ordinance specific to SGB management versus SGB management plan), advantages and disadvantages of each of the options, and the cost and time to pursue the recommended action, i.e., prepare a basin management plan. As an alternative, because development of a comprehensive management plan would take too much time, the Board directed staff to prepare an ordinance specific to SGB management. The Board also directed that stakeholders should be included in the ordinance review process.
In April 2002, at a Board strategic planning session, staff presented additional information on the different management options available including development of a management plan, adoption of groundwater use ordinances, or basin adjudication. The Board reiterated its direction to develop an ordinance focused on management of the SGB as an interim measure to help protect the basin’s resources until a comprehensive groundwater management plan could be developed, and asked that a work plan and time line for developing the ordinance be provided at the May 2002 Board meeting. This information, along with conceptual ordinances and discussion of CEQA compliance, was prepared for the May 2002 meeting. However, due to time constraints, consideration of the item was continued to the June 2002 meeting. At the June 2002 meeting, staff presented the conceptual ordinances, i.e., one for new or expanded water distribution systems (No. XXX) and one for existing water distribution systems (No. YYY) within the SGB. The Board approved the proposed time line and work plan and, in addition, directed staff to develop a request for proposals (RFP) for assistance with development of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) associated with ordinance approval. Eight RFPs were sent out in September 2002.
In December 2002, the Board authorized a contract with Jones & Stokes for technical assistance to facilitate public outreach and environmental review of the interim ordinances regarding SGB management. Work on a legal review of the ordinances and a stakeholders’ meeting were delayed until March 2003 by Board action. In March 2003, staff and representatives from Jones & Stokes conducted a stakeholders’ meeting regarding the proposed groundwater use ordinances and associated environmental review. The presentation discussed the need for basin management, i.e., declining water levels in the coastal subareas of the basin, reviewed current basin production practices, and summarized the impacts of these practices on groundwater levels and quality. The presentation also summarized the environmental review needed for the interim ordinances, reviewed the components of the proposed ordinances, and discussed the potential impacts of the ordinances. A similar public workshop was held in April 2003. In May 2003, staff provided a progress report to the Board and Jones & Stokes submitted a Notice of Preparation (NOP) for an EIR for the proposed interim ordinances to the State Clearinghouse. In June 2003, Jones & Stokes held a CEQA scoping workshop on the proposed ordinances and reviewed the process for the public to provide input.
Both Cal-Am and the City of Seaside provided written comments on the NOP and indicated their support for all reasonable efforts to maintain a healthy, viable SGB. Both Cal-Am and the City of Seaside raised concerns about proceeding with the interim ordinances. In its comments, the City of Seaside applauded the District’s interest in protecting the basin and, as an alternative to the ordinances, encouraged the District to “draft and diligently pursue the adoption of a Basin management plan that is consistent” with District law and is broadly supported by interested stakeholders. District staff and counsel met with representatives from Cal-Am and the City of Seaside to discuss their comments on the NOP in June 2003.
In August 2003, Cal-Am filed a complaint against several municipalities and other users of groundwater within the SGB. Cal-Am’s complaint sought a basin-wide adjudication including prioritization and quantification of water rights within the basin, rights to aquifer storage in the basin, rights to inject water into the basin, a judicial determination that the basin has been in a condition of overdraft, and the appointment of a watermaster to manage the water rights and resources of the basin. In September 2003, the District filed a motion to intervene in the adjudication. The District’s motion to intervene was granted in November 2003. In January 2004, the City of Seaside filed a motion to change the venue of the adjudication or appoint a disinterested judge from a neutral county. At the same time, the City of Seaside filed a cross-complaint against the District requesting that the Court declare that the District’s statutory authority and its rights to groundwater and groundwater storage with the SGB are subordinate to the rights of Seaside, the rights of the other municipalities overlying the basin, and any physical solution ordered by the Court.
In December 2003, following a change in the Board’s composition due to the November 2003 election, the Board directed staff to cease work on the interim groundwater management ordinances and associated environmental review and proceed with development of groundwater management plan for the SGB. Consequently, in January 2004, staff notified the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research that the District had decided to withdraw it proposed project, Seaside Basin Ground Water Management Ordinance, from the CEQA environmental review process (Exhibit 19-E) and planned to focus on development of a comprehensive groundwater management plan for the SGB. In addition, staff notified the commenters on the NOP and members of the stakeholders’ group of the Board’s decision to withdraw the interim ordinances and proceed with a groundwater management plan. Work on the EIR for the interim ordinances was suspended at the administrative draft level.
This item was originally scheduled for consideration by the Board at its February 19, 2004 meeting. The Board deferred consideration of the item to its March 15, 2004 meeting.
Groundwater Management. Groundwater management is defined as the planned and coordinated monitoring, operation, and administration of a groundwater basin or portion of a groundwater basin with the goal of long-term sustainability of the resource. In California, there is no statewide groundwater management statute or program and the California Legislature has repeatedly held that groundwater management should remain a local responsibility. The State’s role is to provide technical and financial assistance to local agencies for their groundwater management efforts. In this regard, in 2002, the Legislature passed SB 1938 (Stats 2002, ch 603) which amended Water Code section 10750 et seq. to require that groundwater management plans adopted by local agencies include certain components to be eligible for public funds administered by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) for construction of groundwater projects. In addition to the required components, DWR worked with representatives from local water agencies to develop a list of additional recommended components that are common to effective groundwater management. These required and recommended components are listed and described in Exhibit 19-F, which is taken from DWR’s Bulletin 118, Update 2003, California’s Groundwater.
All of the required and recommended components specified by DWR will be included in the proposed groundwater management plan for the SGB. It should be noted that any action of the Board to adopt or implement the groundwater management plan for the SGB will be taken by ordinance and that, before enactment of any ordinances, the Board will satisfy all CEQA-related requirements.