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California county’s farm bureau sues over state monitoring of groundwater

HANFORD, Calif. (AP) — A lawsuit has been filed over California’s decision to take over monitoring groundwater use in part of the fertile San Joaquin Valley under a landmark law aimed at protecting the vital resource.

The Kings County Farm Bureau and two landowners filed a lawsuit last week over a decision by the State Water Resources Control Board in April to place the Tulare Lake Subbasin on so-called probationary status. The move placed state officials, instead of local officials, in charge of tracking how much water is pumped from the ground in a region that state officials deemed had failed to come up with a plan to sustainably manage the resource.

The lawsuit alleges the move went beyond the board’s authority in “an act of State overreach” that could devastate the largely agricultural county of about 150,000 people halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“This battle is about saving the community of Kings County,” the farm bureau said in a statement Thursday.

The state board said in a statement it is required to act when groundwater plans are determined to be inadequate. “The board is confident that it correctly applied its authorities to protect vital groundwater supplies,” the statement said.

It’s the first area in California to go through this process under the state’s 2014 groundwater law, which tasked local communities with coming up with long-term plans to keep groundwater flowing sustainably after years of drought and overpumping led to problems with the water quality and the sinking of land.

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