Legal Alerts May 2, 2019

SGMA: DWR Announces Draft Basin Prioritization

Comments Accepted Until May 30

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The Department of Water Resources released its draft groundwater basin prioritization for 57 groundwater basins this week. Comments can be submitted on the proposed prioritization for those basins until May 30.  
 
Under the California Statewide Groundwater Elevation Monitoring Program and the subsequently enacted Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the DWR was required to update basin priority for all 517 California groundwater basins and sub-basins by Jan. 31, 2015. It was also required to reassess the prioritization anytime Bulletin 118 basin boundaries are updated. Basins are prioritized as high, medium, low or very low based on the consideration of eight components listed in Water Code section 10933(b).
 
In 2016, following the DWR’s adoption of the CASGEM prioritization as the initial prioritization, DWR completed and released groundwater basin boundary modifications (Bulletin 118 – Interim Update 2016). In 2018, the DWR released the draft basin prioritization results for all basins.
 
A subsequent round of basin boundary modifications followed, prompting the DWR to initiate a two-phase basin prioritization process to reassess the priority of the groundwater basins in accordance with SGMA requirements. Phase 1 was finalized in January and focused on the 458 basins that were not affected by the 2018 basin boundary modifications. Under Phase 1, 25 basins were assigned as high priority, 31 as medium priority, nine as low priority and 393 basins as very low priority.
 
The now-released Phase 2 covers the remaining 57 basins, including the 53 that were modified and approved, as well as two that were not approved by the DWR as part of the 2018 basin boundary modifications. It also includes two basins whose boundaries were modified by Assembly Bill 1944. Of the basins reviewed in Phase 2, 22 were designated as high priority, 16 as medium, two as low priority and 17 basins as very low priority.
 
Under SGMA, previously identified critically overdrafted high and medium priority basins  in Bulletin 118 – Interim Update 2016 are required to submit a Groundwater Sustainability Plan  by Jan. 31, 2020. The remaining high and medium priority basins are required to submit a GSP by Jan. 31, 2022. However, basins newly identified as high or medium priority are required to form a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (or submit an alternative to GSP) within 2 years from the date Phase 2 prioritization is finalized and are required to submit a GSP 5 years from that date. GSPs are optional for basins prioritized as low or very low priority.
 
A 30-day comment period ending May 30 is now open for input from the public and local agencies, and a public meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m., Monday, May 13, at Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, 11020 Sun Center Dr., Suite 200, in Rancho Cordova. Comments can be submitted online at any time during the public comment period.
 
For more information about this announcement and how it may impact your agency, contact the authors of this Legal Alert listed at the right in the firm’s Environmental Law & Natural Resources practice group or your BB&K attorney.
 
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Disclaimer: BB&K Legal Alerts are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this communiqué.

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