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.

Groundwater Sustainability Agency Formation (May 2020)

On May 5, 2020, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution forming a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) for the Eel River Valley groundwater basin. Formation of a GSA had become mandatory for compliance with SGMA. This resolution directs Public Works to return to the Board at a future meeting with proposed bylaws for the GSA including the structure for a Groundwater Resources Advisory Committee.

On May 21, 2020, Humboldt County’s GSA formation notice was posted on DWR’s SGMA Portal website. Because the Eel River Valley groundwater basin was unmanaged, the decision to become the GSA took effect immediately without a 90-day waiting period, pursuant to Water Code Section 10724. Therefore, Humboldt County was recognized by DWR as the GSA for the Eel River Valley groundwater basin starting May 21, 2020. Humboldt County will consider the interests of all beneficial uses and users of groundwater as described in this summary document

Request for Proposals for Consulting Assistance

A Request for Proposals for professional consulting assistance to develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) for the Eel River Valley groundwater basin was issued on May 5, 2020. Proposals are due June 5, 2020. Funding is provided through a planning grant from DWR under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Planning Grant program (see below).

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 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 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. In January 2020, the project was included on DWR’s draft list of proposed funding awards. The grant agreement is expected to be finalized by May 15, 2020. The project will be completed by January 2022.

Groundwater Sustainability Plan Alternative Submittal (December 2016 – November 2019)

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.



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Basin Prioritization