The groundwater extraction permit bill AB 2201, introduced by Assembly Member Bennett from the Santa Barbara area, will have a damaging impact on growers and communities in the Central Valley and is redundant to the Executive Order issued by the Governor in response to the drought.
Assembly Bill 2201 will have a damaging impact on growers of all sizes and the small communities in the Central Valley which they support. This bill proposes constraints to well permitting that are simply unrealistic. For example, if a farmer’s well fell into disrepair and it needed to be replaced, the farmer would have to (1) hire an engineer; (2) have that engineer perform an analysis and prepare a report; (3) submit that report to the county; (4) obtain a verification from the GSA; (5) submit that verification to the county; (6) wait 30 days while the application is posted for public review and comment; and (7) hope that the county approves the application. This expensive and lengthy process may mean loss of crop as farmers wait longer for well permit issuance.
Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-7-22 in March of this year. This Executive Order prohibits a permitting agency, like a county, from approving a permit for a new groundwater well or alternations to an existing well without first (1) receiving written verification from a GSA that the proposed well will be consistent with that GSA’s GSP; and (2) determining that the proposed well will not interfere with existing nearby wells and cause subsidence that would damage nearby infrastructure.
Assembly Bill 2201 is not only redundant but goes far beyond the Governor’s Executive Order. There is already a working procedure in place for well permitting. Groundwater Sustainability Agencies have successfully worked in partnership with the counties that considers groundwater sustainability while processing permits in a streamlined and efficient way. Assembly Bill 2201 does not enhance this process but rather hinders it with impractical requirements.
Currently the bill is on the Senate floor. If passed by the Senate, the Governor has until September 30 to sign or veto the bill. The Kings River Conservation District has an oppose position on the bill.