MODESTO -- A Modesto project to provide Del Rio residents with more more reliable tap water drew opposition Tuesday night from an attorney representing nearby property and business owners.
These owners fear the project could draw down the water table and harm their wells.
But the City Council moved forward with the project on a unanimous vote awarding a $384,431 contract to an engineering firm for the final design work on the roughly $6 million project for Del Rio, a country club community north of Modesto.
Sacramento attorney Daniel W. Smith represents the North Modesto Groundwater Alliance, which is composed of about a half-dozen property and business owners near the project, which includes a well, storage tank and pump station. The alliance filed court papers last month asking a judge to require the city to do a more in-depth review and analysis.
Smith asked the council to put the project on hold while the legal matter plays out. A court date is scheduled for June.
Smith asserted that in addition to inadequately assessing the project, a study conducted by an engineering firm on the well's impact on the water table was flawed. He said the study was based on the well operating for eight hours a day for 30 days, and not the city's plan to operate it up to 20 hours a day during summer months.
Before council members voted, City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood advised them that the city had followed and met all the requirements for the project. City staff has concluded, based on its studies and analyses, that the project will not harm the groundwater supply.
She added that there was no court order preventing the city from proceeding. In an interview after the vote, Smith said he will talk with his clients about seeking a temporary restraining order to halt the project while the matter plays out in court. He said he expected a decision on whether to seek a restraining order by the end of the week.
The council vote was 6-0 and included accepting the project's initial design work at a cost of $148,010. NorthStar Engineering Group is doing all of the design. Councilman Dave Cogdill Jr. recused himself because his real estate appraisal firm had done work on the project before his election.
Modesto owns the water system for Del Rio and agreed in 2005 to improve the system to settle a lawsuit brought against it by Del Rio's homeowner association.
An assessment determined the need for the city to build a new well, a 250,000-gallon storage tank and pump station to fix supply and pressure problems.
Another rub for Del Rio's neighbors is that the city is proposing to build these improvements on land it bought a half-mile from Del Rio in the 700 block of Ladd Road, and not at the country club community.
Modesto officials say they tried to buy land in or closer to Del Rio. They say they have addressed neighbors' concerns about noise and aesthetics by such measures as the use of landscaping to screen the project and by reducing the height of the storage tank.
Modesto intends to augment Del Rio's three wells with two more; staff is negotiating to buy a lot at McHenry Avenue and Stewart Road, in addition to the proposed well on Ladd Road.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.