Pandemic precautions have presented new hurdles for stakeholder engagement on groundwater sustainability plans due in January, according to Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC).

“The challenges to our counties have been myriad,” said an RCRC policy advocate in a legislative hearing this week. “But many are rooted in sorely lagging broadband infrastructure.”

To address this, Republican Asm. Devon Mathis of Visalia has a bill that would allow the state to extend that deadline for some plans, “so people can get their ducks in a row.”

The bill drew backlash from the Local Government Commission, which argued the pandemic should not be an excuse when these communities had up to seven years to prepare. The California Groundwater Coalition added that any delays now would increase overall costs.

“This is not kicking the can down the road,” said Mathis. “It's not a mandatory extension. …This bill gives the [Department of Water Resources] the option.”