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 regulatory fee and a programmatic fee.
The regulatory 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.
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 Regulatory 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 regulatory 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 may be assessed to current and potential groundwater users in the County-managed areas of the Madera, Chowchilla, and Delta-Mendota subbasins. Users and properties within the County-managed areas may be assessed a fee beginning in 2020. The County and the Board of Directors of the GSAs (Madera County Board of Supervisors) are currently determining the basis of the GSA fee and what properties or users may be included in a fee. These may include irrigated agricultural properties, unirrigated agricultural properties, rural residential properties, and other properties including commercial and industrial land uses. The fee structure will be designed so that each property, and property class, pays an amount that corresponds to the benefit of groundwater management.
How are the fees calculated?
This is currently being developed with Board direction according to the timeline below.
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-November, 2019: GSA Fee Study Report
- Late October, 2019: Public Notification of Upcoming Fee Adoption
- November 12, 2019: Fees Considered for Adoption by Board of Supervisors
- Effective date: Will appear in property tax bills in October 2020