The Stanislaus County Agricultural Advisory Board is proposing a Stanislaus County Ground Water Protection Ordinance.
The draft ground water protection ordinance was adapted almost entirely from a 1992 Tehama County ordinance while also using provisions from a Yolo County ordinance.
Jeff Barton, Turlock Irrigation District (TID) Assistant General Manager of Civil Engineering and Water Operations, stated that the proposed ordinance needs to examine in further detail actual conditions pertaining to: Local farming practices, local groundwater use practices, and local water district operations and practices.
TID’s Jeff Barton was seeking the TID Board of Directors’ authorization to submit comments and recommendations on behalf of the District addressing Stanislaus County’s draft Groundwater Ordinance, especially addressing: prohibited “mining” of groundwater exemptions, a required off-parcel permit process, and the well restrictions on radius of influence.
Most of the issues TID staff has with the draft ground water protection ordinance simply dealt with legal language and unspecified exemptions that would conflict with TID’s operations on how they currently move water, such as a mining and export prohibition of groundwater transfers within a multi-county water district.
A required permit process is proposed for extraction of groundwater for use off-parcel. The Ag Advisory Board did consider TID’s well operations by including an exemption for “historical” use by a recognized water District or established agricultural operation on contiguous parcels. Again, TID staff needs clarification as to what “historical” means exactly, would that apply to replacement pumps, and other situations.
A permit process would also be costly for farmers as it could include up to 12 steps in the process and cost over $15,000. TID staff and legal counsel suggest the proposed permit process is onerous and expensive.
A proposed well operation may have a restriction on its radius of influence that would be unworkable and impracticable for the entire county being that most wells sit on the perimeter of parcels, almost always extend beyond parcel boundaries, and TID or growers may be limited or even restricted from developing new wells.
Stanislaus County Advisory Board Member Wayne Zipser spoke to TID’s concerns. While he couldn’t speak for the Board, he did state that he saw TID’s concerns as valid.
Zipser stated that the Ag Advisory Board thought the use of “historical” would’ve covered TID’s general history of operations and that clarification could be made more so.
Much dialogue took place in regards to the “mining” of groundwater. Currently there are at least a couple wells pumping groundwater from Stanislaus County and then transporting the water to a southern county to irrigate dry almond orchards.
Should the restrictions to mining groundwater exempt inner-county parcel transfers, TID’s multi-county operations, and potential same use transporting? Basically everyone is just trying to protect the potential farming of water rather than crops while also protecting the local Stanislaus County’s economy and not supporting another’s.
Barton explained during a presentation that without modifications, staff and legal counsel are recommending TID oppose adoption of the proposed ordinance.
Wayne Zipser explained that he’d like to see TID’s modifications included in the proposal and explained the legality concerns may be valid by saying “We’re just farmers and most of the guys who serve on the sub-committees are not attorneys.”
TID Director Michael Frantz wanted to express support for protecting our groundwater as a matter of policy rather than opposing the effort because of modification issues.
“As long as the County is willing to adopt our changes, or our sharpening of the languages, I think we should support it. I do,” said Frantz. “My position is to support protecting our farmers’ water.”
Stanislaus County District 2 Supervisor Vito Chiesa was in attendance but did not participate in the discussion.
The TID Board of Directors unanimously approved staff to submit comments and recommendations on behalf of the District addressing Stanislaus County’s draft Groundwater Ordinance.
TID staff will present a draft letter to the TID Board at the next meeting on Tuesday.