Sonoma County unveils proposed rules for new wells

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The county is seeking public input on the revised rules through a series of meetings this week. Tuesday’s meeting, from 9 a.m. to noon, and Thursday’s, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., are at the Permit and Resource Management Department, 2550 Ventura Ave. Santa Rosa.

Sonoma County planning officials on Monday unveiled the most significant changes in nearly 40 years to the county’s underground well ordinance, which sets in place rules property owners must follow when drilling a new water well.
The proposed changes would prohibit new wells from being installed within 30 feet of streams. They would also prevent new wells from being drilled within between 20 feet and 100 feet of existing wells, depending on the ground water basin. The rules would also ban well drilling into streams.
The changes, slated to go before the Board of Supervisors early next year, would not affect the estimated 40,000 wells that now exist outside of city limits or establish a limit on the number of new wells permitted by the county.
County planning officials said the proposed revisions — to a well ordinance adopted in 1978 — have been on the drawing board for years, before the onset of the current drought. The goal is to prevent new wells from sucking streams dry and diminishing connected underground supplies. The rules are also intended to shield streams from sediment and other pollution that can be unleashed during well construction.
“Right now you can drill and pump as much as you want,” said Nathan Quarles, an engineer with the county’s Permit and Resource Management Department. “Some of that is causing harm to fisheries.”
The federal agency in charge of salmon and steelhead recovery is taking issue with revisions, contending the 30-foot setback may not do enough to protect imperiled fish species. Wells in some areas should be further away from streams to protect surface- and sub-surface flows, a federal biologist said.
Read more via Sonoma County unveils proposed rules for new wells | The Press Democrat.

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