A recent event in Visalia brought together a wide array of interests to discuss the impact of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). More than 400 people attended the SGMA meeting, entitled “Save Our Communities.” Several San Joaquin Valley mayors, lawmakers, sheriffs, and representatives from banking and educational institutions were all in attendance. The implementation of SGMA is expected to have far-reaching effects in various sectors of valley communities. President and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA), Roger Isom said these types of meetings are an important step in presenting a unified voice in seeking solutions.
“We want to draw attention, it’s not just the farms, there’s other things that happen,” Isom explained. “When you take away water and you’re not farming, it impacts everybody. Not just those farmers, but everybody who works for them, everybody who works with them, and everybody who relies upon them is impacted by this.”
A coalition of 52 organizations co-hosted the event including WAPA, the California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA), and six county farm bureaus. Some of the action items that came about from the SGMA meeting include having the Valley Delegation of state legislators ask for a meeting with the Governor’s Administration to discuss potential mitigation action. Many of the speaks noted a need for more flexibility in the implementation of SGMA and further funding opportunities to support Groundwater Sustainability Agencies.
“Sometimes the collective problem does bring a lot of individuals who haven’t historically worked together, together. Because it’s either, we all rise together, or we all sink together, and I think what you saw today in the room is that collective commitment,” said CFFA President Ian LeMay. “I think there’s a need for more meetings like this. The conversation will not get easier, it will get harder. But this region, to be effective, has to stay together. I was very pleased with the dialogue today and walking away from here, I think there’s a plan that we can start to execute.”