Plan will make county eligible for $ millions to manage groundwater
The plan will “foster better knowledge of our most valuable resource, other than our children, of course,” said District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson
“We hope it will be a tool to protect existing groundwater uses,” he said, including agriculture and municipalities in the Honey Lake basin. The plan will also qualify Lassen County for state grants of up to $250,000 this year, from Propositions 50 and 84, to further define and manage water resources and implement the GWMP.
“Under Proposition 50 there’s $650 million available for plans and for implementation of projects,” said Bob Vince, of Brown and Caldwell, the contractor who prepared the plan, with offices in 47 cities across the country including Davis, Calif., and Carson City, Nev. “Under Proposition 84 there’s $1 billion of money for development of plans and implementation of projects, and this, of course, would be a competitive process.”
Once the plan is final, the county will be eligible for grants of up to $500,000 for planning. Seven applicants out of about 50 recently received up to $25 million for implementation of the local plans.
Vince said there is still “lots of money available.” He also suggested the county use the issue of the basins it shares with Nevada to leverage funding. Vince said Lassen County is well positioned to be able to pursue planning grants from money specifically targeted to the north and south Lahontan regions.
Hanson said the GWMP is also a tool to keep the control and use of groundwater at a local level rather than having the state take control, which Hanson said various administrations been trying to do for years.
The GWMP was designed to maintain or enhance groundwater quantity and quality for sustainable use, prevent draw down of the water table and provide a mechanism for management of mutual groundwater basins the county shares with Washoe County, Nev.
“It looks like they have become a user of Lassen County, Honey Lake Valley groundwater,” District 1 Supervisor Bob Pyle said of Washoe County and the state of Nevada, after reading preliminary draft of the plan.
The GWMP also describes a basin management approach, which is being used successfully in the Sacramento Valley, according to former Lassen County Community Development Director Bob Sorvaag, who recently retired.
“But instead of determining, based on computer modeling, or a scientific estimate, how much can be extracted out of a basin, basin management objectives look at the whole of the potential for what could happen and what the goals are for a given sub-basin area,” Sorvaag said.
Using all the available scientific data, BMOs establish appropriate levels for wells before they drop to a point where action needs to be taken to protect the water. BMOs also describe specific actions all stakeholders must take to protect groundwater quality and quantity. The plan includes 41 action items.
“This will become your playbook going on into the future of how to address groundwater management,” Sorvaag told the board on his last day of work for the county, Tuesday, Jan. 9.
In June 2005, the board directed county staff to prepare a plan. In March the board passed a formal resolution and started the process required by the California Water Code, hiring Brown and Caldwell, to prepare the plan.
“Now is the time to get something in place … to move forward rather than being reactive to something that comes down the line,” said County Farm Advisor David Lile, who served on the GWMP working group. He said, “It’s probably time to try to get ahead of the game.”
Board Chairman and District 4 Supervisor Brian Dahle agreed, saying it’s already very difficult to get water in Janesville. District 3 Supervisor Lloyd Keefer said the problem is widespread, extending all along the escarpment to Hallelujah Junction.
“I’m really looking forward to more monitoring (of residential wells), possibly,” Keefer said, adding he’d like to see a good grant application brought to the board when it approves the plan.
Sorvaag said Vince will prepare a master service agreement to prepare grant applications for the county.
“Ag wells have been good,” Keefer said. “As we face growth pressures and development pressures along the (Highway) 395 corridor, and that’s the next issue we’re going to be dealing with as we go through the general plan and the zoning — I think it’s going to be really critical to understand our water resource.”
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