In a 5-0 vote on Wednesday, March 28, the Lake Shastina Community Services District directors requested the Shasta Valley Basin Groundwater Services Agency consider extending the basin boundary to include their District inside the Shasta Valley Basin boundary line.

The decision came after nearly an hour of questions and comments between the Board, staff, residents and representatives from the GSA.

The special meeting also had an agenda item for a report out from closed session. Counsel Margaret Long read a statement, and General Manager Mike Wilson shared it via email: “The Board has met in closed session to discuss the case of Moller v. Layne, and what options and responsibilities the District has following the dismissal of the case by the [California] Supreme Court. This item was agendized as ‘potential litigation’ on the agenda. The Board has requested that Counsel report out the results of closed session in greater detail because this is an issue of concern within the district.

“After review by Counsel, the Board received a presentation regarding the statute of limitations, possible remaining claims, the uncertainty of the outcome and large cost of continuing litigation. The Board weighed out the pros and cons, and has decided not to pursue any additional litigation against DECO Industries, LLC related to the 2015 settlement agreement.”

Board President Carol Cupp said Counsel will also be reporting this again out of closed session at the regular board meeting scheduled for April 18 at 1 p.m.

In a 5-0 vote, the directors passed a motion to transfer monies to the general fund from the LAIF reserves. The budgeted items covered by the reserves were sewer station repairs, and strike team gasoline and vehicle repairs, among other things.

About 30 people listened to Siskiyou County Natural Resource Policy Specialist Matt Parker and District 5 Supervisor Michael Kobseff present details on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and the possible expansion of the Shasta Valley Basin boundary and whether it should include the Lake Shastina CSD.

The Groundwater Sustainability Agency will be run by the Siskiyou County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, Kobseff said, which will be creating sustainable groundwater plans for three water aquifers in the county.

The Shasta Valley, Scott Valley and Butte Valley Basins are the three basins the Flood Control District is tasked with developing plans for by the January 31, 2022 deadline, according to the Siskiyou County website.

Kobseff is also a director on the Siskiyou County Flood Control and Water Conservation District Board.

Kobseff and Parker arranged last Wednesday’s presentation with the Board to see if the Lake Shastina District wanted to be included in the boundary, Kobseff said. Parker and Kobseff have been reaching out to the communities “regarding expanding the boundary line to encompass the watershed from a more holistic approach.”

The GSA is the only other entity besides the Department of Water Resources that can “modify a boundary line,” Parker said. And they have until June 30 of this year to modify the Shasta Valley Basin boundary.

The discussion last Wednesday centered on implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act basin plans, and the pros and cons of being inside the Shasta Valley Basin boundary line.

One of the benefits, resident Tom Wetter said, is that Lake Shastina’s District is only 40% built out, and once it is fully built out, it will need “at least” twice as much water. To have a seat on the advisory committee will also help, he added.

“This is one of those things you need to look at because this is the future of the community,” he said. “It has a huge effect on those who are going to live here in the future.”

Director Paula Mitchell was thinking similarly.

“In the bigger picture, [the SGMA] will have an impact on our water source, now and into the future,” Mitchell said.

The current SGMA boundary was drawn based on a 2010 geological survey that considered alluvial soil type only as an “aquifer-bearing” rock, Parker said. This led to a small boundary footprint in the volcanic Shasta Valley.

“The Department of Water Resources didn’t address volcanic soil types” in determining basin lines, Parker said. And the volcanic and glacial debris flow, or moraine, is “pretty rare” in the state.

The DWR “knew the Shasta [boundary] line needed to be changed. They just couldn’t address it from a practical standpoint,” Parker said.

Kobseff said the Shasta Valley GSA has to “address concerns locally and get the plan written by us locally, so the state doesn’t have to come in and do it for us.”

Once the boundary has been adjusted, and the final committee members have been chosen, the GSA will turn to creating the Shasta Valley Basin’s sustainable groundwater plan. The plan will then be turned in to the Department of Water Resources for approval. The State Water Board will enforce all the water plans.

Talking with and informing all the affected municipalities and districts about the SGMA is part of the SGMA requirement, he said. They are asking them if they would like to be included in the boundary line.

“We realize whether we expand the boundary or don’t expand the boundary, there’s always going to be somebody unhappy with it,” Parker said. “We’re going to have to rely on consultants, on technical expertise” to determine what to do with regard to the water plan.

The GSA, Parker said, would take the community’s wishes into consideration, but would make the final decisions itself. The GSA boundary line will not have “little pockets” of included communities, but rather be inclusive of the “whole holistic watershed.”

Tom Wetter asked whether there is substantial savings as well as input to what Lake Shastina’s future looks like by becoming part of the basin boundary.

“I can’t effectively answer what the state will do now, moving forward with SGMA,” Parker said. “I can’t say what they would do.”

In response, Paula Mitchell said, “Once you get up and get going, what will this GSA have authority to do?”

“The GSA has authority to assess fees, require monitoring,” Parker said. “The GSA could determine that Shastina is not affecting groundwater management in a negative way, and say well, they can just continue as they have been. The GSA is very general in terms of application.” Metering is also something the GSA could impose but is not likely at this point.

Mitchell asked about how the SGMA would affect well drilling.

Parker said, “The permitting process will still go through the other arm of the county; we would just be kept in the loop side of new permits.” He added, “Siskiyou County is nowhere near a moratorium on well drilling, so let me be clear on that.”

Current laws will be in effect for almost four more years, he added.

Much of the Act is in response to the problems of groundwater lowering occurring in Southern California’s Central and Coastal regions. Siskiyou County Basins are classified as in medium condition rather than being considered extremely affected.

Public Works Supervisor Robert Moser has been monitoring the wells at the LSCSD for 13 years. When asked what his thoughts on the SGMA were, he said, “The State’s going to come in and impose on us. And there’s nothing we’ll be able to do about that.” He added that in his experience, the State decides what to do in Southern California, and the policies “trickle up here.”

He recommended the District “get on board” with the basin plan.

General Manager Wilson said, “I mirror what Robert says, and I speak from experience as a former state employee. I think we absolutely have to have a dog in this fight and maintain local control. If we don’t, we’re going to suffer for it.”

The Shasta Valley SGA has received a grant for $1.4 million to pay for outreach and to design the groundwater management plan. Of that, $600,000 is designated to the research and craft of the Shasta Valley plan within the designated basin boundary only, Parker said.

To help with the groundwater plan, the California Department of Water Resources has a “model ordinance” posted on its website, Director Rick Thompson said.

“How closely do you guys intend to follow the model ordinance?” Thompson asked Parker.

Thompson said the model is “pretty comprehensive” and quoted what he thinks is an important part of the model ordinance: “The county does not intend to regulate in any manner the use of groundwater except as a last resort to protect the groundwater resource.”

Parker did not comment on this with regard to the Siskiyou County groundwater planning, but took the model Thompson offered for further review.

It was unclear how much the basin water level has lowered. Moser has not experienced much of a drop in water levels after 13 years of studying. Moser said after the meeting that his depth measurements of the LSCSD wells have not fluctuated more than a foot, and they then rebound to normal levels. The maximum drop was six feet, but that has also returned to normal.

Interested parties can request a seat on the advisory committee. The Act states the GSA must review all requests for participation on the advisory committee.

Parker said they want a “well-rounded committee” with representatives from agriculture, municipalities, landholders, environmental and technical people, and Indian tribal people.

After much discussion, with a 5-0 vote, the Lake Shastina Community Services District directors requested the Groundwater Services Agency extend the boundary so that Lake Shastina is inside the Shasta Valley Basin boundary, on the condition that they are also given a seat on the advisory committee.

“We hopefully will get a better understanding of water availability for all of the citizens in the future, is that correct?” Mitchell asked, after Parker had spoken for 55 minutes.

“Absolutely,” Parker replied.