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County Farm Bureau Sues California Over Groundwater

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County Farm Bureau Sues California Over Groundwater

County Farm Bureau Sues California Over Groundwater

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There is no better proof of democracy than when a whole state is dragged to court for abuse of its power. In this case, the state in question is California, and the plaintiff is a local county. 

The lawsuit against the state was filed because the government took over monitoring the county’s groundwater, an act they say is the state overreaching.

Of course, the state officials believe they are right because California has experienced droughts that lasted years in the past thanks to mismanagement of water supplies, all of which happened under the local government’s watch. 

Details of the Case

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The plaintiffs in this lawsuit include The Kings County Farm Bureau and two landowners. They are filing the lawsuit because the State Water Resources Control Board chose to put Tulare Lake Subbasin on probationary status. This means California state officials now have the right to monitor the groundwater, a task that originally fell on the shoulders of the local officials.

Why State Officials Took Over

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The norm is for local county officials to have the exclusive right to monitor groundwater, but in California, that changed after the 2014 groundwater law was passed.

Before the law was passed, local officials and communities were tasked with creating their own long-term plans to monitor groundwater levels, especially when the state is likely to experience years of drought. Local governments are also responsible for creating plans to sustain groundwater flow and end overpumping.

The Challenge Comes a Decade After the Law Was Passed

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The groundwater law has been in place since 2014, and it was only passed to manage ongoing water problems the state experienced, especially during droughts.

Droughts often happen naturally, but the one in California was enhanced by the overpumping of water, which resulted in water quality problems and even land sinking in some places. Since the law was passed, this lawsuit is the first attempt to challenge it. 

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About Kings County

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Kings County is an area in the San Joaquin Valley known for its extremely fertile soil, which allows agriculture to thrive. It is located between Los Angeles and San Francisco and has about 150,000 people. 

Threats to Agriculture in the Valley

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There is no question about the rich soil in the San Joaquin Valley, but the whole area is also very vulnerable to drought, which could destroy what the farmers work so hard to plant. Some believe this is one of the reasons why state officials chose to take over the monitoring of water levels in the area. 

Why the Take Over Really Happened

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According to state officials, the county’s inability to create and implement a sustainable plan resulted in the takeover of the monitoring of Kings County groundwater and its Tulare Lake Subbasin. The law requires the local officials to do this, but they reportedly have been unable to do it accurately. 

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Kings County's Argument

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Officials from Kings County disagree with the state’s position, and in the lawsuit they filed, the move was tagged as an overreach on the state’s part. They believe continued monitoring from the state could harm the community of farmers and those who depend on them.

The State Won't Budge

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As far as state officials are concerned, the 2014 law enables them to do what they are doing, especially since the counties are clearly not carrying out their duties. The state board says their authority was correctly applied to protect vital resources.

California Still Vulnerable to Droughts

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The lawsuit follows years of problems in the San Joaquin Valley, all of which can be traced back to ongoing droughts. The past couple of years have seen groundwater levels rise, but the effect of recent droughts is still very evident. Last year, there was a wet winter, but many people in the Valley still saw their water wells dry up.

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Why Did the Wells Dry Up?

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The dry-up was a lingering effect of past droughts in California and, in some cases, a side effect of the overpumping of aquifers. There was massive rainfall last year, but even that was not enough to stop some wells from drying up, proving that the rain has not completely reversed the damage.

One Good Year Does Not Erase Ten Bad Ones

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While groundwater levels in the San Joaquin Valley and all of California have been slowly rising because of wet winters, experts don’t believe that is enough to reverse the damage from the droughts and overpumping completely. According to a water resources expert, one wet winter can’t undo the effects of ten years of droughts.

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