On September 16, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). SGMA, the single greatest change in California Water Law in 100 years, requires governments and water agencies of high and medium priority groundwater basins to halt overdraft and bring groundwater basins into balance between extraction and recharge. Under SGMA, these basins should reach sustainability within 20 years of implementing their sustainability plans.
To accomplish the work, SGMA empowered local agencies to form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to manage basins sustainably and requires those GSAs to adopt Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) for crucial groundwater basins in California.
In the Salinas Valley, the response to SGMA was to form the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (SVBGSA) under a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA). The newly formed agency has responsibility for developing GSP’s for five subbasins with plans due in 2022, as well as a plan for the 180/400-foot aquifer, a critically over drafted subbasin with a planning deadline of January 31, 2022.
Agency representatives shared responsibility for initial funding and management of the agency while forming a board and governance model that would eventually guide the new agency. When it came time to develop a viable management team to operate the GSA and produce GSP’s, the Agency issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Management Services.
Regional Government Services (RGS) responded to the RFP and, as we like to say, the rest is history. RGS stepped in, hired a General Manager and clerk and provided financial and accounting services for the Agency. As work continued to develop, RGS provided grant management services for funding associated with plan development and also supported the GSA in developing and implementing a valley wide operational fee to manage groundwater.
This month the SVBGSA Board approved the first Groundwater Plan meeting the deadline required by the State. The partnerships that have formed between RGS and all the local stakeholders has allowed this plan to be developed transparently and collaboratively while meeting all state regulations. The flexibility and adaptability at the core of RGS is just the approach required to create a resounding success in responding to the most significant water legislation in California in many years.