WAAP Groundwater Update - Nov 2015
on the web at: http://sodacanyonroad.org/forum.php?p=1069
Gordon Evans | Nov 6, 2015

Hi Folks - Time for another unscheduled update:

1. New well at 2100 Atlas Peak Rd. Many of you have been wondering about this very visible project (now completed). Here’s what I found:

The well was apparently drilled sometime in the ’70’s, driller info and logs N/A. The casing was 8” diam., composition UNK. The well was sleeved with a 6” casing, composition UNK, sometime in the late ’80’s, again driller info and logs N/A. Depth was about 250’, the same as our well here at 2381 APR. When the Sellers moved out, they still had water in their storage tank, which also supplied the limited residential needs for realtor showings and such while the house was vacant. The prospective Buyers discovered the well was putting out only 1-2 gal./min. Through negotiations, it was apparently decided not to spend any more money investigating the existing well for possible rehabilitation, rather to concentrate on drilling a new one. The new one is located approx. 30’ from the old one, and is approx. 600’ deep, cost unknown. I’m told they got plenty of water (60 gal./min.) at 400’. This anecdotal “evidence” of “deep” water availability in the AP area has been backed up by the realtors with whom I spoke.

FYI - Current well drilling costs for a 6” casing run $50-52/ft. Add to that: $1500 for permits, sanitary seal, etc. and, if necessary, a new (2hp) pump & related equipment at $10,000. All costs are approximate, depending upon access, trenching, availability of electricity, etc. Lead time is running approx. 6-8 weeks minimum, regardless of drilling firm used.

2. Assessor’s Parcel Report Language. In checking on the above project, as well as my own residence and a few others in the area, I discovered that almost every rural property outside the MST (Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay) Basin, basically the valley floor, was listed as “Not in a groundwater deficient area." Through some rather tortuous navigating of various County departments, it appears that this is the default language used in software supplied by a (unnamed) third-party vendor to Public Works that characterized any parcel not falling within the study boundaries of the 2003 USGS MST Groundwater Resources Report That report was a joint venture with the County collecting and assimilating data during 2000-2002, and cost several hundred thousand dollars, and applied ONLY to the confined MST Study Area Boundaries, NOT the much larger MST Drainage Basins. That (geographically limited) data was relied upon heavily by the BOS in affecting the County Groundwater Conservation Ordinance No. 1294 adopted on August 7, 2007 and changes to the County Water Availability Analysis adopted on May 13, 2015. In short, unless a parcel located in the MST Drainage Basins was not specifically identified through the permit process as having a “water problem,” it was assumed that no problem existed, because those areas had not been studied! I thought the language was misleading in its inference that there was sufficient groundwater. I believed it should be changed the to something more realistic, e.g., “groundwater data unknown, no data available,” or something similar.

Several discussions with Steve Lederer, County Director of Public Works, led to a modification, and it now reads:

It’s not as misleading, but still has enough legal “wiggle room” to remain somewhat ambiguous. At least it should mean something a bit different and worth further pursuit to anybody who’s interested in a particular parcel and bothers to read it.

Of greater import, however, is the extent to which that original language and the 2003 report have been relied upon by various government agencies in the decision-making process to promulgate programs, policies and statutes - that may never be known.

3. Monitoring Wells in the MST Watersheds. Items #1 & 2 above led to researching the number and location of any monitoring wells outside the aforementioned MST basin. This info is NOT publicly available (I was told for reasons of privacy on privately-owned parcels and “national security,” i.e., the threat of terrorism on public lands). Discussions with Steve Lederer and Patrick Lowe, County Natural Resources Conservation District Manager, led to the following email response on 10/29/15 from Lowe:

Curiously, Lowe’s earlier email response to me of 10/27/15 stated:

4. SGMA (State Groundwater Management Act). Our neighbor Chris Malan has discovered that the County may be trying to do an "end-run” around the SGMA of 2014. She writes, "Napa County BOS (Board of Supervisors) has fast tracked, without County-wide public hearings, to an GSP-Alternative, which is to continue to study the aquifers and NOT DEVELOP a SUSTAINABLE GROUNDWATER PLAN/SAFE YIELD." While doing a little digging on the County WICC (Watershed Information Center & Conservancy) website, as she suggested, I came across this sentence, which I extracted from this document.

I don’t know if there are provisions in SGMA for this procedure, but the cynic in me says that their agenda is already geared to saying there’s no major problem now and they’ve got things under control, but are probably scared to death about the State telling them what to do. Rest assured, Chris and others are following up on this.

5. League of Women Voters Groundwater Forum (What’s Up With The Water Below?). They are hosting what should be a very interesting and timely presentation at the Napa Main Library, 580 Coombs St., Napa, CA 94559 on Monday, Nov. 23, at 7 P.M. Tentative agenda items (plus a Q & A period) include:

6. Donations. As stated earlier, WAAP is an information vehicle only, and does not solicit or accept financial aid. There are also many fine people who are working hard as volunteers on all our behalf to address our mutual groundwater concerns. However, these activities necessitate the use of experts (attorneys, engineers, hydrologists, geologists, biologists, etc.) who are familiar with the labyrinthian workings of government proceedings, and that requires money. You are heartily encouraged to contribute to one or more of the following:

These entities may be either 501(c)3 tax-deductible or 501(c)4 non-deductible, so check with the individual organization. Please earmark your funds for a specific use or project here in Napa County.

7. Help Wanted. If any of you have the interest and the time to help a beleaguered soul research and prepare these newsletters, your assistance would be greatly appreciated. No pay.

8. Photo of the Week: Note the language from the Napa Valley Vintners, “SOILS: Volcanic in origin, with basaltic red color, shallow with limited water retention, so irrigation is often required.” (Taken at Sattui’s Castello di Amarosa, Nov. 4, 2015)

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