Thursday, September 1, 2016
[Monterey County] Civil grand jury advises county to be ready to take over lead on groundwater management
Salinas >> In order to avoid a loss of local control, a civil grand jury has urged Monterey County officials to be ready to take over as the state-mandated groundwater oversight agency for the overdrafted Salinas Valley basin if a collaborative effort to form one or more such agencies falters by the June deadline.
But in a response to the 2015-16 grand jury approved by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, the county would only indicate the recommendation “requires further analysis.” It noted the local “consensus building process” involving a range of Salinas Valley-area groundwater users and interest groups is still underway with county participation while promising staff would continue monitoring the process and advising the supervisors on their options.
At the same time, the response noted the board has the “legal discretion” in the future to agree to follow the grand jury’s recommendation.
Titled “Striving for Sustainability,” the grand jury report released earlier this summer takes aim at area groundwater management. It has a “special emphasis” on the state Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and its local application. Included in that are “preliminary steps” taken to comply with its mandates, including the formation of groundwater sustainability agencies with broad regulatory and enforcement powers and management plans aimed at restoring the balance between groundwater pumping and recharge by 2040.
Noting the importance of groundwater for the county’s agricultural and urban needs and the local economy, the report argues it is important to maintain local control of such an essential resource in an effort to ensure conditions don’t worsen. Area groundwater basins are in overdraft and some are experiencing seawater intrusion. If locals fail to meet upcoming deadlines for designating or forming a local groundwater agency, and creating a state-approved sustainability plan, the state water board could take over.
The report notes past state-level efforts to require groundwater management and addresses local basins including the Salinas Valley, Carmel Valley and Seaside, including a lengthy section on the range of area water projects the grand jury suggested could be included in a groundwater management plan.
But it focuses most of its findings and recommendations on the Salinas Valley groundwater basin, noting the collaborative process being led by the Consensus Building Institute to corral the various interest groups into a coherent approach. A sustainable groundwater forum set for Sept. 8 at Sherwood Hall in Salinas is expected to offer an update on the process.
The report seems to address the Salinas Valley directly when it warns that “legal maneuvering and delaying tactics” can lead to a loss of local control over groundwater and to “cause already critical groundwater conditions in Monterey County to get much worse, to the detriment of all concerned.”
It calls for “every public and private entity” interested in the formation of a local groundwater agency and adoption of a local management plan to offer a “pledge to consider the groundwater needs of every other interested party with an open mind and a commitment to fairness.”
The board also approved a series of responses to two more grand jury reports, including “Monterey County Parks and SCRAMP: Uncertainties and Instabilities,” and “Housing Homeless Women.”
Also Tuesday, the supervisors gave Natividad Medical Center the go-ahead to create and administer a six-month orientation program for Mexican national doctors to operate in the county at Clinica De Salud in Salinas as part of a three-year pilot program created by state legislation aimed at increasing access to primary care physicians in “under-served” areas, particularly among the Spanish-speaking population.
In addition, the board accepted a retroactive, cumulative 4.23-percent pay increase going back to 2014-15 and 2015-16, and worth about $6,300 per year per supervisor, whose salaries are tied to Superior Court judges pay by county code.
August 30, 2016
By Jim Johnson