Ukiah joins groundwater authority

The city signed a joint powers agreement to govern the basin sustainably.

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UKIAH, 4/20/2017 — The city of Ukiah will now have a seat on the board of the groundwater sustainability agency that will govern the Ukiah Valley groundwater basin. At the Ukiah City Council meeting on April 19, the council agreed that council member Doug Crane will serve as the city’s representative, while council member Kevin Doble will serve as the alternate.

The city joins the County of Mendocino, the Upper Russian River Water Agency, and Russian River Flood Control District (RRFC). RRFC recently joined the Upper Russian River Water Agency. The joint powers agreement which was approved by the council provides for two more members, one each to represent tribal and agricultural interests. This is in keeping with California’s 2014 sustainable groundwater management act, which mandates that medium priority basins, such as the one beneath the Ukiah Valley, have a governance structure in place by June 30, 2017. Without such a structure, control of the basin would fall to the state.

Water in California is occasionally a point of contention, and the formation of the agency was not without some disagreement. In April of 2016, the County of Mendocino used a state Department of Water Resources grant to hire a professional mediator from the Center for Collaborative Policy at California State University of Sacramento, to help form the governing structure for the basin. But when Russian River Flood Control joined the Upper Russian River Water Agency, representatives from the city of Ukiah grew worried that one interest would have a disproportionate amount of influence in determining water policy. However, in mid-March, Tamara Alaniz, the general manager of Russian River Flood Control, drafted a clause in the joint powers agreement that allowed the agency formation to move forward. This clause states that Russian River Flood Control “will not take part in any action or discussion, and shall not vote on any item of the Upper Russian River Water Agency related to the [groundwater sustainability] Agency.”

The board of the groundwater sustainability agency will select the agricultural representative, while the tribal representative will be selected by the six tribes with jurisdiction over Indian lands within the Ukiah Valley basin. These are the Redwood Valley Rancheria, Coyote Valley Reservation, Pinoleville Pomo Nation, Potter Valley Rancheria, Guidiville Rancheria and the Hopland Reservation. Meetings will be quarterly. The organization must have a groundwater sustainability plan in place by January 31, 2020.


Sarah Reith sreith@mendovoice.com

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