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Council Eyes Future Of City Groundwater

Should Escalon serve as its own Groundwater Sustainability Agency – GSA – or should it join a consortium for that purpose? That was the question posed to Escalon City Council members at a recent session and although there was some concern about costs and the city getting adequate representation at a group level, they ultimately voted to join with the larger group.

South San Joaquin Irrigation District, in cooperation with Ripon and Escalon, will serve as the GSA and work with the Department of Water Resources, DWR, in meeting future groundwater sustainability requirements.

City Manager Tammy Alcantor said while the city originally considered forming its own GSA, there was potential conflict in that some of the boundaries of the city’s groundwater area could overlap those of the GSAs being formed by SSJID and neighboring cities.

“Department of Water Resources will not let either GSA move forward until those boundaries are worked out,” Alcantor said.

In the interest of time and ease, officials admitted the smart move was to join forces with neighbors as opposed to going it alone.

Still, the requirement to form the GSA in the first place didn’t sit well with councilman Ed Alves.

“This is another unfunded mandate,” Alves said.

He added that it’s a case where “the state says do it yourself or we will tell you how to take the groundwater” and either way, it will cost money.

Alcantor said there are some grants available but estimated the initial cost for joining the Joint Powers Authority, the South San Joaquin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (SSJGSA) would be $5,000.

City Mayor Jeff Laugero suggested that “once the planning is done” to establish the sustainability, the city may at that time decide to “opt out” of the larger group and handle the sustainability program for the city on its own.

Alcantor said since this is just in the preliminary stages, there are still a lot of details to be ironed out. She and Laugero were chosen to serve as the city liaisons to the newly formed agency. Alcantor will be the SSJGSA board member, Laugero will serve as the alternate.

The ultimate goal is management of the existing groundwater, to guarantee a water supply for the city in the future. Escalon, by joining the SSJGSA, will have a voice in decisions and an equal vote on the board.