Groundwater Management Agency
The Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency (FCGMA) manages and protects both confined and unconfined aquifers within several groundwater basins underlying the southern portion of Ventura County. The FCGMA is an independent special district, separate from the County of Ventura or any city government. It was created by the California Legislature in 1983 to oversee Ventura County’s vital groundwater resources. All lands lying above the deep Fox Canyon aquifer account for more than half of the water needs for 0.7 million residents in the cities of Ventura, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Camarillo, and Moorpark, plus the unincorporated communities of Saticoy, El Rio, Somis, Moorpark Home Acres, Nyeland Acres, Leisure Village, Point Mugu and Montalvo.
1880’s – First water wells are drilled in Ventura County using machinery instead of hand labor.
1900 to 1950 – Development of lands for farming and urban uses requires an increasing need for more groundwater.
1950’s – Some wells along the Pacific coast in the area of Port Hueneme and Oxnard begin to show sharply elevated chloride levels, indicating seawater intrusion caused by overdraft of drinking water aquifers. More than 3 dozen wells are rendered useless because they are pumping virtual salt water quality output.
1982 – State Senate Bill 2995 is approved creating the Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency (FCGMA).
1983 – FCGMA begins operations January 1, with the County of Ventura contracting to provide staffing and related services for the new Agency.
1983 – Ordinance No. 1 is adopted requiring all wells within the Agency to register and begin reporting groundwater extractions. A fee of $0.50 is levied for each acre-foot (AF) of water (325,851 gallons = 1 AF) pumped from local groundwater aquifers. These management fees are the sole source of income for the Agency.
1984 – 1985 – With assistance and financing from the Ventura County Flood Control District, United Water Conservation District (United), the City of Oxnard, and the City of Ventura, the United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) is enlisted to design and install a series of clustered monitor wells along the Oxnard Plain coastline. These nested piezometer wells will provide water level and water quality data specific to each individual aquifer layer or zone, and allow evaluation of the seawater intrusion problem.
1986 – United, in cooperation with the FCGMA, completes the Pumping Trough Pipeline (PTP) to provide supplemental surface water to the overdrafted southeast Oxnard Plain, thus relieving stress on the overpumped upper aquifer system. Some 47 Upper Aquifer System (UAS) wells are planned for shut down, to be replaced with surface water from the Santa Clara River and/or groundwater from five new Lower Aquifer System (LAS) wells surrounding the so called “Pumping Trough” area.
1987 – FCGMA Management Plans are developed and finalized after several specific Task Reports are completed, thus allowing consistent management of all groundwater aquifers within the FCGMA boundary.
1987 – Ordinance No. 3 is adopted requiring water flow meters on all wells that extract more than 50 AF of groundwater per year. This ordinance was later changed to drop the 50 AF limit, and thus to require meters on all wells except for domestic-only use wells.
1987 – Ordinance No. 4 called the “Las Posas Basin Groundwater Extraction Prohibition Ordinance” is implemented to protect the aquifer outcrop areas, and to require permits for any wells planned in the Las Posas Valley. It also prevents uncontrolled expansion of groundwater extractions and protects groundwater quality in the East, West, and South Las Posas Basins.
1989 – The FCGMA enters into a joint contract with the Calleguas Municipal Water District (CMWD) and the United Water Conservation District (UWCD) to fund a Regional Aquifer System Analysis (RASA Study) to be performed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Although 5 or 6 years are estimated to complete the field work, computer modeling, and analysis it is felt that a much better and more comprehensive understanding of the subsurface hydrology will result.
1990 – Ordinance No. 5 set up a system of scheduled extraction reductions, allowed for the use of historical, baseline, and agricultural efficiency allocations, and established a credit system to encourage cutbacks in pumping, or a penalty system for overpumping beyond the established annual allocation. This ordinance has been constantly altered and modified to improve or define water management plans and methods.
1991 – United completes the Vern Freeman Diversion structure or permanent dam on the Santa Clara River to allow surface water withdrawals at any time of year or in any weather conditions. This structure included the only operational fish ladder in Ventura County.
1992 – The FCGMA contracts with Peek Electronics, Inc. to install and maintain seven CIMIS-type weather stations throughout the Agency to help farmers plan, manage, and improve irrigation.
1996 – The FCGMA joins with United and the Calleguas Municipal Water District (CMWD) to jointly fund a computer modeling study proposed by the U.S.G.S. using data gathered from the Regional Aquifer System Analysis (or RASA study) begun in 1989. The RASA study evaluated the interactions and geohydrology of the surface water and groundwater basins within the southern half of Ventura County. Findings from the modeling runs were used for future long-range planning, and to help develop a new FCGMA Management Plan.
1997 – The FCGMA wins an EPA Wellhead Protection Grant and hires TRAK Environmental Group to initiate a systematic destruction of abandoned wells to help improve groundwater quality within the broad Oxnard Plain area of Ventura County.
1998 – The FCGMA hires the local geotechnical consulting firm of Fugro West, Inc. to examine water uses in greenhouse and cut-flower operations. Data gained from this study should help to verify or establish future water management plans relating to intense or conjunctive land use practices and water recycling methods.
1998 – Kennedy-Jenks Consultants is jointly hired by the FCGMA and CMWD to perform a computer modeling study on chloride effects within the Calleguas Creek drainage basin as part of a larger look at water quality within the Agency.
2000 – The FCGMA finishes the Federal 319(h) Clean Water Act Wellhead Protection Grant on-time and under budget by completing destruction of 44 old abandoned wells within the Oxnard Plain Pressure Basin.
2001 – A new round of abandoned well destructions begins using donated funds from other contributors, and supplemental funds from the FCGMA. Prior experience gained under the Federal Grant program is incorporated into this recent water quality improvement.
2002 – All previous FCGMA ordinances are combined into a single Ordinance 8.0 along with needed updates and modifications to the management strategy.
2003 – The FCGMA Board of Directors initiates the annual John K. Flynn Award to honor individuals or entities that have contributed to good groundwater stewardship and/or dedication to preserving water resources. The FCGMA computer database is also completely re-designed for quicker access to information, better handling of well user data, and more accurate cost accounting.
2004 – All County Water Resources Division personnel along with the FCGMA staff are transferred from the former Water Resources and Development Department to the newly reorganized County of Ventura Watershed Protection District (formerly the Flood Control District). The new management umbrella opens up lots of possibilities and improvements in accounting, funding, and office resources to both the Groundwater Division staff and FCGMA staff.
2005 – Retirement is in the air at the FCGMA!!! R. Lowell Preston, Ph.D. retires after almost 15 years as FCGMA Agency Coordinator and William A. (Tony) Waters retires from the County of Ventura and 22 years of service as FCGMA Agency Counsel.
2005 – The FCGMA Ordinance Code (Ordinance 8.0) gets its first revision with a few updates, clarifications and modifications to the management strategy as Ordinance 8.1 is adopted and becomes effective mid-September. One of the changes in Ordinance 8.1 is the change of title from Agency Coordinator to Executive Officer to run the daily functions of the FCGMA. To that end, Mr. Jeff Pratt, P.E., Director of Watershed Protection District takes the helm of the FCGMA as Executive Officer as Agency Coordinator Dr. Lowell Preston retires.