Carol Benfell, SOCONEWS
A Sacramento-based environmental group is suing to stop well drilling in the Russian River watershed until Sonoma County determines if the wells will steal underground water flows from the Russian River or its tributaries.
The lawsuit brought by California Coastkeeper says the county is failing its “public trust” duty to preserve and protect the Russian River for the common good. It asks the court to order a ban on the drilling until the county adopts the appropriate regulations.
“The county has to get squared away on how to keep water flowing in the Russian River,” said Drevet Hunt, an attorney for California Coastkeeper.
The county is taking the issue seriously, said Daniel Virkstis, a county spokesperson.
“The county is taking a hard look at the issues raised in Coastkeeper’s suit and knows they are of significant concern to the community and land owners,” Virkstis said.
There are more than 40,000 rural wells in Sonoma County. About 400 were drilled in the past two years alone, with no examination of their impact on the Russian River watershed, according to county records.
“Over-pumping groundwater has had and continues to cause significant harmful effects on the flow of the Russian River and its tributaries,” said Sean Bothwell, executive director of California Coastkeeper.
“The current drought only makes this problem worse, and restricting surface diversions alone merely drives more groundwater pumping,” Bothwell said.