Last week, the California Assembly passed comprehensive groundwater legislation that buttresses the authority of local agencies to manage groundwater in California (AB 1739; SB 1168, SB1319.) For more than a century, fragmented authority shared among a myriad of local agencies and an absence of coherent state guidelines have contributed to a lack of groundwater management and critical overdraft in some areas of the State. Nowhere has the problem been more acute than in the Central Valley.
However, Counties in California have long possessed the authority to manage groundwater within their boundaries. (Baldwin v. County of Tehama (1994) 31 Cal.App.4th166) And, San Bernardino County, where all of Cadiz’s properties are located, is one of the 19 counties in California that have previously chosen to assert this authority through the adoption of its Desert Groundwater Ordinance. (Article 5, 33.06551 et seq.)
Indeed, it is under the authority of its Ordinance that San Bernardino County imposed a comprehensive groundwater management plan for the Cadiz Valley Water Project in October 2012 referred to as the Groundwater Monitoring, Mitigation and Management Plan (GMMMP). The GMMMP was established after the County undertook its own substantial legal and technical evaluation of the Project and includes extraordinarily rigorous management requirements to ensure that there are no adverse impacts.
The GMMMP also facilitates the achievement of the Constitutionally driven objective of optimizing groundwater use and avoiding waste in the Cadiz/Fenner Valley by dramatically reducing evaporative losses in the surrounding watershed. (See City of Los Angeles v. City San Fernando (1975) 14 Cal.3d 199; Joslin v. Marin Municipal Water District (1967) 67 Cal.2d 132.)
Today, the County’s strategy appears prophetic and is a model for other areas that may be considering the potential for implementing the policies enacted under the groundwater legislation. Earlier this year, the GMMMP was upheld against legal challenges and the adoption of the legislative package does not impact the County’s Ordinance or the approvals of the Water Project issued under the GMMMP.
Sustainable groundwater management has long been a guiding tenet of the Company’s operations. We applaud the state’s legislative action and remain committed to honoring the local policies enforced by San Bernardino County to provide lasting groundwater supplies in our area.