Emma Murphy, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Supervisor James Gore, whose north county district includes some of the county’s most prolific wine grape growing areas, voted against the moratorium.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has imposed a six-month halt in all new wells countywide, a far-reaching move likely to impact residential and commercial property owners seeking to tap groundwater amid a historic drought.
The immediate drilling moratorium, which offers only a narrow exemption for emergency water needs, is meant to give the county more time to draw up a new set of well regulations aimed to safeguard surface and subsurface flows in the county’s major watersheds.
A 2021 lawsuit by the environmental group California Coastkeeper Alliance spurred the work toward new regulations, and the Board of Supervisors was scheduled to vote on the new rules Tuesday.
Instead, after hours of deliberation over a proposed well ordinance that would have established new requirements reflecting updated state policy for well permit applicants, the board voted 4-1 to impose a moratorium, seeking to buy time for additional work.
Supervisors cited concerns including the potential impact the ordinance would have on agricultural users, and potential legal ramifications connected to California’s environmental quality laws. The new regulations could affect any wells countywide that come under a new application or are up for renewal.