It has been about six months since my last newsletter article. Since that time we continue to conduct the business of the association using frequent meetings of the Executive Committee, the weekly newsletter, and polling the board of directors whenever necessary. I think we have been very successful at keeping the association moving along administratively and programmatically while using short and efficient meetings to deal with issues. We have recently dealt with staff salary increases and are on course to conduct a long-term policy to keep our staff compensated within our budget constraints. Our membership remains stable and we hope that our members remain satisfied with the service that we provide to the industry. Major issues that we are acting on are promoting marine finfish aquaculture, planning regional board meetings to encourage more member participation, and, recently, detailed examination of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SBMA) and how to support our members in dealing with it. We expect to present our positions and discuss these and other issues with the Legislative Joint Committee for Fisheries and Aquaculture during a session scheduled now in early October.
We continue to strongly support marine finfish aquaculture in California, but remain stymied by the long-standing uncertainty of completing the Marine PEIR. This document has been in preparation for well over ten years but has been plagued by the inability of the CDFW to prepare an acceptable document that meets technical and legal standards including the essential CEQA requirements. We have expressed our concern to the Department in the most direct way possible, yet there is not yet any indication when the document will be finalized. Any progress toward realizing marine finfish and other forms of offshore aquaculture in California state waters is, in practice, prohibited until the guidelines for conducting marine aquaculture are defined by the document. Nonetheless, in federal waters, the Rose Canyon Project off the coast of San Diego continues to make progress completing its permit application with the several federal agencies that are reviewing the application. Rose Canyon is a very significant step toward implementing offshore marine finfish aquaculture in the United States and in California. It is the first project of its kind in the U.S.
Another topic that we have discussed in the Executive Committee and have brought before the Board of Directors, is conducting regional meetings. Historically, CAA conducted physical board meetings, roughly four times per year, rotating the venue between several locations in Northern and Southern California. Over the years, because of the difficulty and expense of conducting physical meetings and development of conference calling and video technology, most of our meetings are teleconferencing events. And with fewer physical meetings, the occasional physical meetings have been almost exclusively held in Sacramento owing to the proximity of government offices and CAA staff. The natural tendency to gravitate toward the state capital is understandable, but when we examine our present situation, it is clear that our Southern California members have little opportunity to attend board meetings and almost no personal contact with their fellow members, sponsors and CAA officers. The committee soundly endorses the principal of conducting some meetings to serve our southern colleagues. Using a software program that can locate addresses and plot them on a map, we were able to identify how our membership is distributed in the state. You can view the CAA members and registered California aquaculturists using the following websites:
Examination of the California membership map shows two clusters in north and south that are centered roughly in Vallejo in the north and Temecula in the south. In any case, we will be preparing for a CAA Board Meeting near Temecula in early 2017 that will include a membership function (reception or dinner).
The last important issue that deserves every CAA member’s attention is the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). This law that was signed in 2014 is huge change is the management of California water that radically changes the status of groundwater on private property. Groundwater that was once essentially a property right that required no permit to develop or extract without limit in most of California is now a common public resource that will be governed by local Sustainable Groundwater Agencies (SGA) that have the power to meter, regulate, and charge for all groundwater in the state. These SGA’s, especially those in areas where there is historic overdraft of groundwater, will be very important to many of our members who may find their access to groundwater may be affected.
The first part of this issue that deserves CAA attention is getting information about the SGMA to all of its members. We have already published in this newsletter an executive summary of SGMA objectives and administrative facts prepared by the UC Berkeley Law School that defines the new governance agencies that will regulate groundwater and the powers they have. Aquaculturalists should be aware of the hydraulic unit or basin in which they reside in order to engage their local groundwater agency and have a voice in creating the policies that they will develop.
Because there are dozens of these agencies that will shortly evolve in California, it is impossible for our small organization to observe and respond to all of them. Fortunately, the California Farm Bureau Federation has chapters in every area in California and has the substantial resources of the state organization to support the local chapters. Rob Ross, our legislative analyst; Lauren Bernadette, our legal advisor, and I all strongly recommend that every fish farmer in California should pursue membership in their county chapter of CFBF as the best way to follow events in your locality with support from farmers who have similar interests. Your independent local action is the best way to stay abreast of the SGMA and its potential effects on your farm. In the meantime, the CAA staff and I are keeping close watch on SGMA developments and are preparing information to share with you.