New Groundwater Fees
Under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) are charged with the duty of managing groundwater within the GSAs’ respective boundaries for the benefit of all extractors and users of groundwater. There are many costs associated with implementing GSA activities. However, the County GSAs currently have no means for recovering these costs, so as to allow the GSAs to operate independently as designed. To rectify this situation, the County has engaged a financial consultant to conduct a rate study to help develop a fair and equitable fee structure that would enable cost recovery for the activities related to complying with SGMA. It is anticipated that there are two fees associated with the GSA work, a fee and a programmatic fee.
The fee is designed to help the County recover the administrative costs associated with GSA activities, such as outreach, grant administration, technical support services, legal and professional services, studies (e.g., recharge), annual and five-year reporting, and reserve funding (as allowed under SGMA per Water Code section 10730). The goal of the fee is to ensure that GSAs operations are self-sustaining, and only assessed to the areas of each subbasin managed by the County. This fee will require adoption by the Board of Supervisors acting as the Board of Directors for the County GSAs.
The second fee is to cover the programmatic costs for the County GSAs. Such a fee is provided for in Water Code section 10730.2, will be set and approved under the rate-setting process set forth in Proposition 218, a state constitutional amendment which grants voters the power to approve local fees for service (for example water and sewer rates). The GSA-related costs recovered by this fee may include those incurred for land acquisition and development of recharge basins, purchased water for recharge, water rights applications and permits, dry well fund and/or expansion of distribution systems, technology for tracking water use over time, and other activities necessary for implementation of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). The goal of this fee is to help achieve sustainable outcomes for the subbasins over the SGMA implementation period (through 2040).
Why is the Fee Needed?
SGMA was passed by the Legislature in 2014. SGMA requires groundwater subbasins to reach sustainability by 2040. In order to demonstrate how sustainability will be achieved, SGMA requires GSAs within a subbasin to develop a GSP. The GSP is the guiding document to implement solutions over a 20 year period to achieve sustainability. Besides the solutions outlined in the GSP, the GSAs require personnel, outside professionals, tools and data to administer the GSA activities.
The County-managed groundwater subbasin areas cover only a portion of the County’s total land area. The fee will ensure that only those in each County GSA pay for the benefit of sustainable management and unaffected areas are not assessed for a benefit that is not received.
Who is Affected?
The new fees will be assessed to irrigated acreage within the County-managed areas of the Madera, Chowchilla, and Delta-Mendota subbasins beginning in 2020.
How are the fees calculated?
This was developed with Board direction according to the timeline below to levy fees on irrigated acres within the County GSAs in the Madera, Chowchilla and Delta-Mendota Subbasin.
New Fee Timeline
The timeline for fee implementation is illustrated below.
- September 3, 2019: Board of Supervisors GSA Fee Policy Meeting
- September 5, 2019: GSA Advisory Committee Meeting
- October 1, 2019: Board of Supervisors Meeting of Preliminary Fee Options
- October 3, 2019: GSA Advisory Committee Meeting
- October 22, 2019: GSA Fee Study Report Publication
- October/November 2019: Public Notification of Upcoming Fee Adoption (Madera Tribune for three weeks in October/November)
- November 12, 2019: Fees Adopted by Board of Supervisors (acting as Board of Directors for County GSAs)
- August 4, 2020: Updated GSA fee adopted by Board of Supervisors (see below)
- Effective date: Will appear in property tax bills in October 2020