Feb 7, 2024

Groundwater Pumping Exemption Bill for Wetlands Clears Assembly

Groundwater Pumping Exemption Bill for Wetlands Clears Assembly

In January, Assembly Bill 828 (Connolly), which would provide a 3-year exemption for managed wetlands from much of the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), passed the floor of the State Assembly and will next be heard in the State Senate. 


SGMA was signed into law in 2014 but is only now beginning to be phased in via plans developed by local groundwater sustainability agencies, especially in overdrafted basins.  In such priority basins, groundwater must be sustainably managed by the year 2040.   


A number of wetland and waterfowl conservation organizations, including CWA, helped draft AB 828’s wetland exemption provisions and strongly support the bill.  Many duck clubs in the Tulare Basin and east Grasslands that rely wholly or partly on groundwater pumping are finding it exceedingly difficult to comply with SGMA-related pumping restrictions and fees.  Without some sort of relief, some will be unable to flood their wetland properties, resulting in both a loss of critical waterfowl habitat and hunting opportunity.


AB 828’s exemptions would apply to managed wetlands under state and federal conservation easements or similar longer term management agreements, as well as State Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves.  Because National Wildlife Refuges are federally owned, they are already effectively exempt from SGMA implementation. The next hearing on AB 828 will be in late March or April, likely in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.