Kings County farmers vote down proposed groundwater pumping fees

Local community stakeholders are asking for more input when the Mid-Kings River GSA puts together a new proposal.

Water users in the Mid-Kings River Groundwater Sustainability Agency shot down a proposed pumping fee that would have been nearly $100 per acre-foot. 

That sends the Mid-Kings River GSA back to the drawing board, with local stakeholders calling for more input in the next proposal. 


The backstory: California views that the GSA – which comprises of water users in the Kings County Water District, the City of Hanford and Kings County – has not done enough to manage groundwater pumping through the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). 

  • SGMA was passed by the Legislature in 2014, and it governs how agencies in critically overdrafted areas achieve groundwater sustainability. 
  • GSAs are also required to develop and implement plans to avoid undesirable groundwater results and mitigate overdraft within 20 years. 

The big picture: On Tuesday, the Mid-Kings River GSA held a hearing to impose a $95 per acre-foot pumping fee and a $25 per acre assessment. 

  • Under Proposition 218, all stakeholders who would have their fees impacted were able to vote at the hearing and defeated the proposal. 

Driving the news: The Kings County Farm Bureau was one of the main opponents of the plan, largely taking issue with the $11.5 million budget that the Mid-Kings River GSA had proposed, as well as the GSA’s lack of public outreach. 

What we’re watching: The GSA will come back to the community with another proposal in the future, with Kings County Farm Bureau Executive Director Dusty Ference hoping the GSA goes above and beyond to communicate with the local stakeholders and ask for more input in order to develop a plan that makes sense for everyone involved. 

What they’re saying: “They were extremely deficient in any kind of stakeholder outreach or stakeholder engagement,” Ference said. “They never did create a stakeholder advisory committee. They never had a stakeholder advisory committee member appointed to the board of directors because they didn’t have the committee. It was done without input from the stakeholders.” 

  • Ference said the farm bureau believes that the GSA needs to be adequately funded, but Tuesday’s proposal was far too high. 
  • “An agency should allow for public comment and consider those comments as they’re putting together their fee study and their plans and propose a number that makes sense, when you factor in the needs of the agency and the comments of the public,” Ference said. “And ultimately the public has the ability to approve or deny that proposal when they vote. Voting isn’t the time to negotiate. That’s the time to say yes or no.” 
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