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County approves formation of Turlock groundwater sustainability agencies
drought pic
On Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors approved the JPA to form the East Turlock Subbasin GSA and West Turlock Groundwater Sustainability Agencies on behalf of Stanislaus County. - photo by Photo Contributed

Stanislaus County is the latest public agency to move forward with creation of a groundwater sustainability plan for the Turlock Groundwater Subbasin following the Board of Supervisors’ adoption Tuesday of two agreements to form groundwater sustainability agencies for the East Turlock and West Turlock subbasins.


Under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which was passed in 2014, all high and medium priority groundwater basins are required to form one or multiple GSAs by June 30 and to develop one or more GSPs within three to five years, depending on the condition of their basins.


The four designated groundwater subbasins in Stanislaus County — Eastern San Joaquin, Modesto, Turlock and Northern Delta-Mendota — are subject to the requirements of the SGMA. While the Eastern San Joaquin and Northern Delta-Mendota groundwater basins are considered to be in critical condition of overdraft, the Turlock and Modesto groundwater basins are not classified as critically overdraft, meaning they have a five-year period from the time they form GSAs to develop GSPs.


The public agencies within the Turlock Groundwater Subbasin agreed to form two GSAs — one for the East Turlock Subbasin and one for the West Turlock Subbasin — to manage groundwater resources for the basin.


In June, the East Turlock Subbasin — which includes the Ballico-Cortez Water District, City of Turlock, Eastside Water District, Merced Irrigation District, Merced County and Stanislaus County — began the process of forming its very own GSA. There will be a seven member Board of Directors including three seats from Eastside Water District, one seat from Ballico-Cortez Water District, two seats from Merced County and one seat from Stanislaus County. There will be additional associate members from the City of Turlock and the Eastside Water Quality Coalition.


As one of the public agencies within the West Turlock Subbasin, Turlock Irrigation District adopted a Joint Powers Agreement in November to begin the process of forming a GSA. This action was done in conjunction with the 12 other entities included in the West Turlock Subbasin: Ceres, Delhi County Water District, Denair Community Services District, Hickman (Waterford), Hilmar County Water District, Hughson, Keyes Community Services District, Modesto, Stevinson Water District, Turlock, Merced County and Stanislaus County.


There are 10 members of the West Turlock Subbasin GSA and four associate members. Both the City of Turlock and TID are the two largest members of the West Turlock Subbasin GSA, and as such make up over 80 percent of the subbasin’s proportional funding.


A member is an agency that can appoint a board member and will have a vote. Member agencies must pay an annual fee of $10,000 over the next five years and they have the obligation to fund its proportionate share of the general budget, which is based on acreage and pumping volume. An associate member agency must pay a $2,000 annual fee and can participate at the technical level, meet with staff and work on GSPs, but they do not have an appointed board member and they do not have a vote.


“This is the first step and it’s a major milestone,” said TID Assistant General Manager of Water Resources Tour Her in November. “The two GSAs are working concurrently, but on separate tracks — and so TID is leading the efforts on the West Turlock Subbasin GSA and the Eastside Water District is leading the efforts on the East Turlock Subbasin GSA.”


On Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors approved the JPA to form the East Turlock Subbasin GSA and West Turlock GSA on behalf of Stanislaus County.


Chairman Vito Chiesa will sign and execute the JPA for both the East Turlock GSA and the West Turlock Subbasin GSA on behalf of the County. Additionally, as the Supervisor from District 2, Chiesa will also serve as a board member to both GSAs. County Water Resources Manager Walter Ward will serve as the alternate board member.