Dear Chair Caballero:
On behalf of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, I write to respectfully oppose Assembly Bill 2201 (AB 2201) by Assemblymember Bennett, which would prohibit local governments from approving a permit for a new groundwater well, or for an alteration to and existing well, without the written consent of the governing groundwater sustainability agency (GSA). At a time when our surface water allocations have been cut to absolute zero, it's imperative that farmers maintain adequate access to the water that grows our nation's food.
Section 113 of the California Water Code states, "Sustainable groundwater management is best achieved locally through the development, implementation, and updating of plans and programs based on the best available science." AB 2201 contradicts this stated policy of local control. Instead, AB 2201 mandates a new permitting process for groundwater wells that will negatively impact our small, rural, agricultural communities in Tulare County.
This bill imposes an unnecessary mandate on how GSAs must operate and manage their groundwater basins. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) already authorizes a GSA to control groundwater extractions, regulate the construction of new wells, and impose spacing requirements on new wells to minimize well interference (Wat. Code, § 10726.4). This bill requires that GSAs approve third party findings related to new groundwater wells before a county can issue a permit, rather than allowing counties, in conjunction with GSAs, to determine which management options are best suited for local conditions.Many high-and medium-priority basin plans have yet to clear initial Department of Water Resources review, and the imposition of new requirements that are duplicative of existing ones is inappropriate, as GSAs have yet to exercise their authority under SGMA.
Farmers in Tulare County received a 0% allocation from the Central Valley Project, despite historically low water tables. Many of the impacted crops are permanent plantings such as vineyards, and various orchards. AB 2201 will not allow farmers to repair existing wells even if those farmers operate within a conjunctive use water district. The result will be the fallowing of hundreds of acres of permanent plantings. The bill also effectively prohibits any economic development occurring outside of an existing public water system, specifically along the State Route 99 transportation corridor. These aspects of the bill cast too wide a net, the unintended consequences of which are certain to result in egregious damage to a $49.1 1 billion business sector within the State's economy. For these reasons, we must respectfully oppose AB 2201.
Eddie Valero, Chair
Tulare County Board of Supervisors