Groundwater

Humboldt County Public Works is coordinating the local response to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) with input and guidance from the Eel River Valley Groundwater Working Group. SGMA was signed into law in September 2014 and applies to designated medium- and high-priority basins within the state. Currently there is one medium-priority basin, the Eel River Valley groundwater basin, within Humboldt County. SGMA is administered at the state level by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the State Water Resources Control Board.

Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Application (November 2019)

On November 14, 2019, Humboldt County submitted a grant application to DWR as a proxy for the future Eel River Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) to obtain a planning grant for the Eel River Valley Groundwater Sustainability Plan and Monitoring Well Installation Project. Formation of a GSA and development of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) is required because DWR disapproved the submitted Groundwater Sustainability Plan Alternative (see below). The proposed project includes stakeholder outreach and engagement, data collection and analysis, enhancement of the hydrogeological conceptual model and water budget, numerical modeling of the groundwater-surface water system, and document preparation. Funding decisions from DWR are expected in approximately February 2020. If awarded, the project would start as early as May 2020 and be completed by January 2022.

Groundwater Sustainability Plan Alternative Submittal

SGMA contained provisions for local agencies to submit Groundwater Sustainability Plan Alternatives (GSP Alternatives) by January 1, 2017, if there was evidence demonstrating that the basin had been managed sustainably for at least 10 years prior to the adoption of SGMA. GSP Alternatives are more streamlined plans and do not require the formation of a Groundwater Sustainability Agency.

In 2016, Humboldt County was awarded a Prop. 1 planning grant to perform an initial assessment of the Eel River Valley groundwater basin. Based on the data and information gathered in this assessment, Humboldt County concluded that there was sufficient evidence demonstrating that the basin had been managed sustainably for at least 10 years. On December 30, 2016, Humboldt County submitted a GSP Alternative to DWR for review.

On July 17, 2019, DWR provided a letter and staff report stating that DWR intended to disapprove the submitted GSP Alternative for the Eel River Valley groundwater basin, for the following reasons:

  • The GSP Alternative did not demonstrate that objective management criteria had been in place for 10 years;
  • The GSP Alternative did not sufficiently demonstrate the absence of undesirable results;
  • A quantitative estimate of sustainable yield had not been provided; and
  • The GSP Alternative did not quantify the impacts of groundwater use on surface water systems and determine at what point they are significant and unreasonable.

Humboldt County submitted a comment letter on September 30, 2019, and DWR issued their final determination and statement of findings disapproving the GSP Alternative on November 13, 2019. Based on DWR’S disapproval of the GSP Alternative, Humboldt County will work collaboratively with water users and stakeholders to form a GSA for the Eel River Valley groundwater basin, based on a governance structure that provides appropriate representation for affected water users and stakeholders within the basin. The target date for GSA formation is April 2020.

The submittal packet can also be found on the Department of Water Resources Alternative Reporting System website.

Reports

Meetings

To put your name on the contact list, send an e-mail to Robert Vogt.

Basin Prioritization