Many at the hearing said they were mainly concerned that the new rules do not address water usage by rural residents or farmers, over-pumping of some of the county’s groundwater basins or the impact of the drought on sensitive plant and animal habitat in riparian areas.
Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved sweeping new limits on well drilling, making the most significant changes to the county’s water well ordinance in nearly 40 years.
The revised ordinance establishes well-construction standards to prevent groundwater contamination, incorporates new protective buffer zones along streams and requires new wells be equipped with monitoring devices to measure groundwater levels in the future.
The rules also prohibit drilling new wells into streams and wetlands and require that property owners pay a $150 annual fee to test water, ensuring it is safe for drinking.
The updates, made amid California’s historic drought, are meant partly to prevent new wells from sucking streams dry and diminishing connected underground supplies. The rules also are intended to shield streams from sediment and other pollution that can be unleashed during well construction.
The revised regulations, however, apply only to new wells and do not cover the estimated 40,000 wells that now exist outside of city limits. The action also does not establish a limit on the number of new wells permitted by the county or require any reductions of water usage.
Supervisors called the updates overdue, though board members said they were concerned the new rules did not sufficiently address the depletion of aquifers and streams amid the drought.
Read more at: In bid to conserve streams, aquifers, Sonoma County | The Press Democrat
Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County supervisors Monday adopted a hard-won compromise between farmers and environmental groups, advancing protective buffer zones along 3,200 miles of streams and rivers in the county.
“This is a historic day,” Board Chairman David Rabbitt said. “It wasn’t easy to get here.”
Supervisors unanimously approved the measure shielding 82,000 acres of land outside city limits, most of it on private property, from future farming and development.
The decision followed a four-hour public hearing, where 25 speakers from a standing-room-only crowd called the once-controversial policy now workable.
“This has been a long process,” said Bob Anderson, executive director for United Winegrowers for Sonoma County, who has been heavily involved in negotiating new rules. “It is pretty amazing in this county to have all interests singing from the same sheet of music.”
Officials said the buffer zones along waterways throughout the county will provide critical ecosystem functions, including groundwater recharge, water quality, river bank stability and habitat for imperiled fish species.
Most of the speakers were in favor of the proposal and applauded the compromise. The new rules were first approved under the county’s general plan, adopted six years ago, and will now be aligned with county zoning codes, officials said.
“For people who violate the law, I can go after them now,” said Tennis Wick, director for the county’s Permit and Resource Management Department. “Yesterday I couldn’t.”
The new countywide ordinance prevents property owners from cultivating land or building on land that is 50 to 200 feet from rivers and streams. At issue Monday were details in the proposal, including where to draw the edge of the setback zone, vehicle turnarounds for farming operations and whether to allow wells within buffer zones.
via Unanimous county vote approves stream setbacks | The Press Democrat.
Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County’s effort to implement one of its most controversial land use policies — protective buffer zones along 3,200 miles of rivers and streams — has reignited a pitched debate between environmental organizations, farmers and private property rights activists about how to best protect and manage waterways throughout the county.
The dispute is fundamentally about the reach of government regulation onto private land to safeguard public resources, including water quality and wildlife. The debate has been closely monitored by environmental and agriculture groups, and county officials have acknowledged that the outcome will have far-reaching implications.
Read more via Stream protections vs. private property rights in Sonoma | The Press Democrat.
Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sales of water storage tanks have spiked on the North Coast as rural residents, already faced with declining wells, springs and reservoirs, brace for what could be another drought year.
“They’re hoarding water,” said Rich Hutchison, a plumbing and electrical buyer for Friedman’s home improvement stores.
Water storage tank sales increased by about 40 percent at Friedman’s stores in December, he said. The Ukiah store alone sold 20 tanks in December, a 50 percent increase from the same time last year, Hutchison said.
via Dry conditions lead some on North Coast to store water | The Press Democrat.