STPUD puts its name in as a groundwater sustainability agency |

STPUD puts its name in as a groundwater sustainability agency

Jack Barnwell

South Tahoe Public Utilities District (STPUD) elected to become South Shore’s groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) in California following a board meeting on Thursday. STPUD hydrologist Ivo Bergsohn highlighted the role the agency would play under California’s groundwater sustainability laws passed in 2014.

GSAs would be responsible for completing and implementing a sustainable groundwater plan by Jan. 30, 2020. The groundwater legislation passed in 2014 with the goal of prioritizing basins across the state and ensuring there was solid framework to ensure the sustainability of groundwater supply within the state. Approximately 127 basins were identified as either high or medium priority basins in need of regulation. Bergsohn said that the Tahoe Valley groundwater basin, which includes STPUD’s service area, was considered a medium priority basin under Department of Water Resources because South Tahoe was dependent on groundwater for potable water sources, its high well density, moderate population and the past and present impairment of some of its groundwater supply. Approximately 97 percent of South Tahoe’s water comes from the basin groundwater. STPUD accounts for 82 percent of groundwater use, followed by Tahoe Keys Water Company, Lukens Brothers Water Company, and smaller groundwater wells. Bergsohn said as a GSA, STPUD would gain additional powers to help it manage sustainable goals. Those powers could include adoption of new rules, regulations and ordinances to ensure sustainability, conduct investigations, reclaim water and impose fees for noncompliance. Examples included requiring registration of wells that produced more than two acre-feet (or 651,702.8 gallons) per year.

“If the district developed new reporting groundwater ordinances, then the district could develop some type of action it could take to make the party report to the district,” Bergsohn said. As the largest water district in the Tahoe Valley groundwater basin, which includes South Lake Tahoe, Bergsohn said it made sense STPUD take the lead role. “As the largest water agency in the south shore area, the district has a strong vested interest in maintaining quality drinking water,” Bergesohn said.

Most directors supported the idea in a 4-1 vote, while Director Duane Wallace had his doubts. “I don’t want to create new agency,” Wallace said. “I can see where the state could start squeezing us to make regulations on other agencies. I’m not for growing any bigger than we already are.”

Board chair Randy Vogelgesang said while it could turn out that way, it was still too early in the game to predict any outcome than asserting local control.

The district will need to submit its notice to the Department of Water Resources to will review paperwork and put it up for a 90-day public comment period before formally tapping STPUD as a sustainability agency.

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