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Jill Weinberger discusses the GSP to the group from cities across Ventura County. (Photo by Chris Frost)
Wednesday, September 4, 2019

By Chris Frost


Ventura—Groundwater in Ventura County had a severe talk about reductions, Aug 21, as the Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency held its fourth workshop about the future.


The proposed new plan will commence in 2020 and will start slow but will ramp up and reduce groundwater pumping in the area significantly.


According to city sources, as of Dec. 2018, Oxnard paid a variable rate of $534.94 per acre-foot (AF) of water, an annual well replacement charge of $78,90, and a yearly assigned capacity charge of $446,431. Regarding city-pumped groundwater, also based on the calendar year ending Dec. 2018, Oxnard paid $215.84 per AF as the fee paid to the Groundwater Management Agency.  That total does not include other costs such as labor and power consumption.


Tier 1 State water costs $1,456.33 per AF, and Tier 2 State water costs $1,550.33 per AF. The annual capacity charge for state water in 2018 was $64,393, and the annual readiness to serve charge for 2018 was $65,096. 


Oxnard uses roughly 30 percent of its water pumped by the United Water Conservation District ("UWCD"). The City of Oxnard pumps a little less than 30 percent, and just over 40 percent comes from state water transported by Calleguas Municipal Water District which varies by year. 


In 2018, the UWCD groundwater was 7,391 acre-foot, 28.7 percent, the city-pumped groundwater was 6,813 AF or 26.6 percent, and the state water was 11,508 AF or 44.7 percent, for a total of 25,712 AF. 


The Tri County Sentry sent emails and text messages to Fox, including Kim Loeb and Jeff Pratt about what revenue projections were as they pump less and how it translates into future rate hikes. The publication received no response.


Loeb opened the meeting and said the workshop is built upon previous workshops and more than 70 sessions they've had on public development.


The board is currently in a 60-day public comment period on the draft groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) which runs through Sept 23.


Loeb introduced Dudek's Principal Technical Team, including Peter Quinlan, Jill Weinberger and Ron Schnabel, which created the GSP.


Weinberger called the workshop "a mile marker in a long process," and although a lot of work has been done, a lot more work needs to be done in the future.


"It's a 20-year period to get these basins to sustainability," she said. "We're starting on that 20-year period to develop these GSPs. This is not the end of the process."


In 2010, the state experienced a severe drought, she said, so in 2015, the state replaced the groundwater management plan with a groundwater sustainability plan. 


"Fox Canyon has been proactive in its approach to developing these GSPs," she said. "Starting in 2015, the agency began developing the technical background work, based on the work that had already been done to develop the framework for sustainable groundwater management."


The basin released preliminary GSP for the basins under its jurisdiction which includes the Oxnard and Pleasant Valley Sub Basin.


"The agency also solicited stakeholder feedback, and got that feedback in the form of comments," she said. "Those comments were reviewed and incorporated into what became the draft GSPs."


The Pleasant Valley and Oxnard basins must submit their GSPs before Jan 31, 2020.


"There will be required updates to the GSP that's written into the legislation," Weinberger said. "There are also evaluation periods that will have to be turned into the DWR (Department of Water Resources), so there is a better understanding."


The Oxnard and Pleasant Valley water basins are high priority basins, she said, and both in a critical overdraft, which propelled the 2020 deadline.


Currently, there is no allocation plan for the Oxnard and Pleasant Valley water basins, which is being worked on by the Fox Canyon Board.


"There is no extraction reduction methodology spelled out in the GSP," she said. "That's going to be considered after the GSP is adopted by the Fox Canyon Board. There are no spelled-out reduction rates, and there is nothing that says this is what the production has to be in 2020-2021. We do understand that the sustainable yield estimates that are in these GSPs are lower than historical groundwater production rates for the basin."


The Fox Canyon Board will consider the groundwater reductions after it adopts the GSP.


Fox Canyon has five productive aquifers in the Oxnard sub-basin and is typically separated into an upper aquifer system, which is the Oxnard and Magu aquifers. The lower aquifer system includes the Hueneme, Fox Canyon, and Grimes aquifers.


She pointed to a map with an older alluvium, which is similar in age to the Oxnard and Magu aquifers but is less productive.


"It has more clay in it," she said. "That difference is why DWR divided these into two separate groundwater basins. The basis for the distinction is because of the change of the surface sentiment."


There are no geologic structures that separate the Oxnard and Pleasant Valley sub-basins.


"There is not a bedrock high that limits the flow between these basins," she said. "Particularly in the Fox and Grimes Canyon Aquifer. They are continuous across that boundary. That means that groundwater production in Pleasant Valley and groundwater levels in Pleasant Valley can influence groundwater levels and elevations in Oxnard and vice-versa. We see that as we plot groundwater elevation maps."


Historically, groundwater elevations have varied in those basins and have come up and gone down and relate to groundwater production.


"The groundwater elevations drive the direction of groundwater flow," she said. "As you lower the groundwater elevation in one area, the water flows downhill. Groundwater elevations below sea level can create a landward gradient from the ocean onto the land. That can generate seawater intrusion to the aquifers."


Seawater intrusion occurs in the Oxnard basin, she said, along with the Hueneme Canyon and Point Magu.


"Groundwater sustainability plans have to address undesirable results," Weinberger said. "Our six sustainability indicators that are used to measure undesirable results, groundwater elevation, groundwater storage, seawater intrusion, groundwater quality, land subsidence, and interconnected surface and groundwater. 


This story will continue on Sept 13.