Planning Commissioner asks minutes to reflect full remarks of UWCD speaker

July 12, 2013
Santa Paula News

Expounding on the minutes of a recent Planning Commission meeting was on the mind of one commissioner, who said he wanted the record to more completely reflect comments made by a public speaker regarding area water supply.

Planning Commissioner John Wisda made the request at the June 26 meeting, noting the full remarks by Tony Morgan, Ground Water Manager of United Water Conservation District, were not reflected in the written record.

Wisda noted that at the May 28 commission meeting Morgan stated that, due to the drought conditions and shortage of water, regular releases from Lake Piru to replenish groundwater would be suspended, the first time such measures have been taken since 1990. “Second, Mr. Morgan also said the Santa Paula aquifer is in decline at the current time,” and Wisda said he questioned Morgan specifically on how using adjudicated acre-feet would impact the supply.

“I asked... if we started using that 5,000 acre feet” allocated to the city would it “accelerate the decline,” of the groundwater supply. Morgan, noted Wisda, said yes. 

The record should also reflect comments centered on the drought and its impact on the aquifers that rely on rainfall for replenishment. “I asked how much rainfall would be required” to replenish the aquifer, and Wisda said Morgan replied 20 inches, an amount that exceeds the city’s usual annual rainfall and an amount not recorded since the 2005 El Niño.

According to the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, as of April 1 Santa Paula had less than six inches of rain, about 35 percent of the 16.34 inches that would be normal to date.

Commission Chairman Mike Sommer asked that the clerk review the tape to “dot all the i’s and cross the t’s on that.”

“I hate to keep beating the drum on water issues,” said Wisda, but “Our aquifer is in decline,” and all proposed new developments - Fagan and Adams canyons as well as Limoneira - “all need water... the reality is if we make a mistake it’s going to be the biggest mistake we ever made.... We need to watch the weather, wait for a heavy rainfall year and start dividing up these allocations.”

Wisda suggested that the commission and the City Council hear a “full presentation from UWCD... I sat down with them several times and they’re very concerned. It has to be a back and forth discussion on all sides; we have to know what the water situation is.”

Commissioner Fred Robinson said he represented the city on several water agency boards when he was a councilman. Although most agencies were “pleased” with their supply, Robinson noted the city is self-supplied. 

“We don’t have to purchase water,” and the Santa Paula basin “contains a lot of water... not to say it’s limitless, it’s not,” as evident by monitoring and court mandates. He has discussed the issue with Councilman Jim Tovias, and “I believe he is going to suggest that UWCD do a presentation to the council.”

Robinson said he plans to re-landscape his property using drought resistant plants, as “it’s very expensive to water now.... I also am very concerned but comfortable that oversight” of water is efficient and there would be public notification before a water shortage reached crisis status. 

“I don’t think we are in crisis,” but Wisda said his aquifer concerns are shared by the concerns of professionals. “The aquifer is in decline,” and if water availability is not addressed in advance Wisda said the results could be grim.

“If Limoneira got to phase two of their development and there was a crisis it would cause tremendous financial hardship” to them and any other development. And that, noted Wisda, “would be very bad news.”

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