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Drilling Down: What the Governor’s Drought Executive Order Means for New Well Construction

Geoff Vanden Heuvel

Director of Regulatory and Economic Affairs

Last week, we sent an e-blast to our members of an article published on Water Wrights providing a great overview of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-7-22 and the concerns it unleased in the agricultural community. Among the many proclamations in the Order is a section pertaining to how new groundwater wells, and alterations of existing wells, are permitted.

As any farmer knows, counties are responsible for permitting groundwater wells, but the new Order now requires counties to obtain written verification from the local Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) related to three aspects of a new or altered well:

1. Is it consistent with the GSA’s plan for achieving a sustainability goal for the basin?

2. Is it “not likely to interfere with the production and functioning of existing nearby


3. Is it “not likely to cause subsidence that would adversely impact or damage

nearby infrastructure?”

Questions two and three are tough for GSAs to quantifiably answer, and as you can imagine, they are doing their best to develop a process to comply with this new requirement. Yesterday, Matthew Hurley, General Manager of the McMullin Area GSA, released a memo to local landowners and stakeholders. Below are some excerpts from the memo that probably apply to all farmers, regardless of which GSA they are located. Read the entire memo here.

From the McMullin Area GSA memo

3. These new requirements are in addition to the requirements of Fresno County as they presently exist. This will be a new step in the process. In order to fully assess the new application, the GSA may need to ask for additional supportive information that will assist in making the necessary preliminary findings required. Depending upon the conditions present at each proposed new well site, the gathering of this information may take additional time. Bottom line: The process may take longer than it has previously.

4. McMullin Area GSA is committed to doing everything we can to expedite the process. We anticipate, and thank you ahead of time for it, your cooperation in overcoming this new requirement. Each application will be different. Please bear with us. We are on your side.

5. In the meantime, please do everything that you can to provide maintenance, swaging, rehabilitation, cleaning, scrubbing or other life extending actions to your existing wells so that they may remain in service for as long as is physically and practically possible. They will be your continued lifeline and should be treated accordingly for the duration of the possible slowdown in your ability to replace them.

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