The Wells of Bonny Doon
Dave Landino, Landino Well Drilling
John & Aaron Lingemann, Earthflow Drilling
Tom Robinson, Tom's Well Service
Wednesday, Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m.
Multi-Purpose Room, Bonny Doon School
|Thirsty for Water Knowledge?
Come to the Nov. 8 RBDA Meeting
With the recent storm aroused by the proposal to require meters on some new wells, it is apparent that water is a very sensitive subject, especially in rural areas of the county like Bonny Doon.
While the county backed off on the proposal for now, it may well resurface in coming years as water demands grow. (Is it just coincidence that the mythical monster that regrew two heads for each one severed was named Hydra?) In fact, the county's well ordinance already gives the county the right to meter wells.
To get an in-depth, current picture of the state of water in Bonny Doon, come to the RBDA meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 8. On hand will be several fountains of knowledge about BD wells and aquifers, including local drillers Dave Landino, of Landino Well Drilling, and John and Aaron Lingemann of Earth Flow Drilling. Their rigs have sunk many of the wells hereabouts. We will also have Tom Robinson of Tom's Well Service, who has installed and maintains most of our tanks, pumps and pipes.
Understandably, since property is worthless without it, Dooners are ultrasensitive to any threat to our water supplies. Several years ago UCSC’s proposal to drill wells in its upper meadow area freaked out Dooners who thought it would siphon off our water (some people still think so, despite hydrologists’ assurance that their aquifer isn't related to those in Bonny Doon). And when one of BD's largest aquifers was threatened by a proposal by the City of Santa Cruz Water Department to drill large wells on the coast near the ocean ends of Bonny Doon streams, the RBDA had a large role in killing it.
Even with that proposal abandoned, the city water department continues to be the biggest competitor for BD water. Right now, the city takes most of the wet season flow of Laguna and Majors creeks, and has a major pumping facility on Liddell Creek. Still, it is running on very thin margins, even with several wet years in a row. As Santa Cruz grows and demands increase, it must find more.
In a little publicized suit, the state Fish and Game Department has been fighting the city to maintain enough flow in Laguna for fish to thrive, which could put even more pressure on Santa Cruz to find alternative sources. Desalination of ocean water seems to be a viable but expensive plan, but the city can't figure out where to safely dispose of all the salt in our protected marine sanctuary. (Encourage a large snack chip company to build a factory here?)
With the coast well idea defeated three years ago, the city has still not come up with another good plan to develop more water sources. It has even offered UCSC, North Coast farmers, and the Trust for Public Land, owner of the former Coast Dairies lands, a deal to trade treated water from the Neary Lagoon Sewage Plant in return for rights to the stream water they use. None have accepted.
This urban thirst will be a constant threat to Bonny Doon's water until it is slaked. Come to the Nov. 8 meeting ready to pump our knowledgeable panel about this and all your water concerns.
Deputy Fish at Water Meeting
The deputy sheriff recently assigned to the new North Coast beat, Stefan
Fish, will be at the Nov. 8 RBDA meeting to introduce himself to Bonny
Dooners. Come meet Deputy Fish and let him know what your main concerns
are about law enforcement problems in our area.
Supes Rein In Well Metering Ordinance
Hostile reactions from rural property owners have dampened the Board of Supervisors’ enthusiasm for an ordinance that would require meters on new and re-drilled water wells in critical areas.
Faced with increasing growth and shrinking water supplies, the supervisors we re considering the meters to learn more about water use, in Scotts Valley, Live Oak, Soquel, Zayante and Lompico. In those places aquifer levels have been going down for years as more water is pumped out than flows in from rainfall. In areas near the coast the water table is now below sea level, which allows salt water intrusion. This has already begun in the Pajaro Valley, where wells are now metered.
The ordinance would not have applied to Bonny Doon, but some Dooners were concerned that the metering would be extended to our area at some future time. Because of the relative abundance of water here, and the fractured and scattered nature of our aquifers, that is unlikely. However, a feature of the now moribund ordinance could have extended the metering to non-critical areas if a local water district requested it.
It would be hard to dispute the value for water management and land use policies of knowing how much water is being used in our county. But this ordinance had several flaws that fueled opposition, besides just the resistance that many people have to any government intrusion on their private property rights.
For one thing, the ordinance would not have revealed anything about well levels, which is critical to judging whether the amount of water being pumped is excessive.
The ordinance, despite what many feared, didn't provide the county with an excuse to send someone to read the meters who might also serve as a spy on illegal building activity. The property owners with meters were to report the results by mailing in a monthly postcard. But the ordinance did propose punitive fines for property owners who didn't send in the cards. Given the intense reaction by some to the ordinance, which was highly predictable, it would have been much better to create incentives for people to volunteer to have meters placed on their wells. That also would have yielded more data more quickly than just adding meters to the 35 or so new and re-drilled wells a year. County water resource manager Bruce Laclergue says the county is now considering a volunteer approach, with the county supplying the meters. (The rejected ordinance would have required the property owners to supply the meters, plus paying for the installation, Laclergue estimated it would cost about $300 on average. However, it could also run a lot more in complicated situations.)
Laclergue was at the September 13 RBDA meeting (as a late addition to the program, announced only by an e-mail bulletin, which is a good reason to put your e-mail address on your RBDA membership application) to respond to concerns about the ordinance.
Some people fear the now-dead meter ordinance was just the forerunner of a law to eventually meter all wells and charge property owners for water use. Since water rights have historically been at the center of fierce legal and political struggles, even wars, it is certain such a proposal would result in a nasty protracted battle. It is hard to imagine that officials would dare provoke this fury.
On the other hand, despite the fact that we consider the springs, streams and aquifers that are on or under our property to be ours alone, they are in fact a shared resource with many claimants. As our population grows we will have to find solutions that are fair to property owners, city dwellers, water companies, farmers and those without a voice of their own, the plants and animals. The more we know about how much water we have, how much we use, and how it moves underground, the better we will be able to devise solutions that are fair and workable.
SCBI Drops Goat Pharm Master Plan
Rather than spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for an Environmental Impact Report on its proposal to keep about 5,000 goats on its Back Ranch Road property, Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Inc. has chosen to drop its Master Plan application.
If it still wants to house its human antibody-producing goats at the ranch, SCBI will have to go back to square one in the application process. You may recall that the biotech company didn't bother with permits when it began building its barns and fences more than three years ago. Eventually there were nearly 1,700 goats at the ranch above Highway One when the California Coastal Commission forced their removal because of the high levels of coliform bacteria in the runoff flowing into downhill neighborhoods and water courses.
In July SCBI moved the goats to a lonely location near Shandon, off
Highway 46 (it connects Highway 101 to Highway 5) in San Luis Obispo County.
What the Stephensons, SCBI's owners, now plan for the Back Ranch Road site
is unknown. They are, of course, free to submit a new application,
but it is likely to be for far fewer goats than the 5,000 they once hoped
to house there.
At the request of the lawyers for owners Bill and Robin Cunningham, the Board of Supervisors has asked the Planning Commission to clarify its decision on the Redwood Meadows Ranch Winery application.
In August, the commission voted unanimously to limit the number of guests to no more than 50 at any time; required the proposed winery and tasting room to close to the public by 6 p.m.; and reduced the number of events to no more than two per month, ending by 10 p.m.
The Cunninghams have not appealed the decision, but their attorney, Lloyd Williams, has asked for a rewrite of the wording behind the decision. The Concerned Homeowners of Redwood Meadows, a group of neighbors who bought the residential properties created by the Cunninghams when they divided the Brisa del Mar Road ranch (off Bonny Doon Road, opposite the northwest end of Smith Grade), is opposing the rewrite. The rewrite's chief purpose seems to be to undercut the legal reasons for limiting the size and number of events, so that the Cunninghams may find it easier to expand them in the future. The new Planning Commission hearing is not currently scheduled, but should take place in November. The date will be posted on the RBDA web site as soon as it is available.
Thanks for Your Support!
The generosity of many of you has helped keep the RBDA cash flow in balance over the past two years. Our deepest appreciation goes to the following people for their support of our efforts to keep Bonny Doon rural and natural, and to keep our community abreast of developments that could affect that. Here follows a list of those who have made donations since we last published it in March 1999.
Patrons: David Gelphman & Leslie Johnson, Kevin Jarvis & Meg Burley
At the September RBDA meeting, new county Public Works Department director Tom Bolich described in detail a $50-million, seven-year plan to improve the county's neglected roads, which have been battered by El Niño and La Niña storms.
Unfortunately, the limited funds mean that roads that are crucial to Bonny Doon, like Felton-Empire, may not be fully repaired for two or more years. Bolich and Bill Dunlop, the road repair manager for Bonny Doon, outlined the system for deciding where and when repairs are made. The county rates each road on a 100-point scale. The goal is to bring all the roads to at least a 70 score. Right now, the average is in the 50s, according to Bolich. Empire Grade, which is rated in the 40s, is scheduled to get minor repairs, like fixing sunken and broken areas, before winter sets in. Same for Bonny Doon Road.
Roads that are even more dilapidated, like Felton-Empire, are considered in need of rebuilding, which involves a lot more time and money. A major job like that is contracted out, rather than done by Public Works crews. Since Felton-Empire is such a highly traveled commuter route, and so important to have open in an emergency, it would be great to try to influence the county to speed up repairs. To express your opinion on this, call Bolich at 454-2302, or write to him at 701 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060.
Harmon Elected to RBDA Board
At the September RBDA meeting, Ben Harmon of Coast Road was unanimously elected to fill the vacancy on the Executive Board created by the resignation of Bill Hornaday. Ben will take over Bill's role as Recording Secretary. We are pleased to have someone as dedicated to preservation issues as Ben on the board. In addition to being the RBDA appointee to the North Coast Beaches Advisory Committee, he has been active in the battle against the Santa Cruz Biotech goat pharm and other important North Coast issues. His professional programming skills will also be useful in the ongoing effort to develop our databases.
Are You Committed to Bonny Doon?
For more than 40 years, the RBDA, and its Executive Board in particular, have been the main defenders of the rural character of Bonny Doon. We very much encourage all of you who are dedicated to preserving the very special nature of Bonny Doon to become more involved in the RBDA. Each year in January we elect new board officers. If you are interested in running for our board, contact either Dave Deamer (426-5601) or Frank Wylie (423-2533), who are serving as our nominating committee.
Mail Carrier Woes Delay Highlander Delivery
The abrupt resignation in late October of the contract carrier for the Smith Grade-Pine Flat route has resulted in highly erratic mail delivery. As a result, the Highlander was not delivered to mailboxes along that route until Friday, Nov. 10 , two days after the Nov. 8 RBDA public meeting, which was a very informative session featuring our new North Coast Sheriff’s Deputy, Stefan Fish, and local well drillers talking about water law and Bonny Doon aquifers.
We apologize for the tardy delivery of the Highlander, although it was out of our control. We brought it to our mailing service on Oct. 27. Because of the huge amount of election material they didn’t get it to the post office until Nov. 1, but that was still a week before our Nov. 8 meeting.
The barrage of election material also made a challenging situation even worse for the new contract carrier, whose name is John, according to Julia Simon of the Scotts Valley Post Office. He has been delivering the day’s mail to the more than 500 mailboxes he is responsible for as late as 7:30 or 8 pm, and is only now catching up on the piles of mail sitting at the post office.
Simon says the situation will get better as John learns his job. She also told us that the post office has been finding some third-class mail (catalogs and other "junk mail" apparently left undelivered by the previous carrier). Hopefully they are catching up with it and some of it will still be timely.
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