Cities, farming and urban groups all calling for spots on Stanislaus County groundwater committee

kcarlson@modbee.comDecember 17, 2013 


    The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors took other action Tuesday:

    •  Approved updates to the fire code

    •  Approved a request for increased appropriations of $1.6 million to fund higher-than-expected legal expenses and court settlement costs

— As Stanislaus County leaders made sure farming interests had seats on a new Water Advisory Committee, certain urban interests made a pitch for places on the advisory panel, too.

Riverbank Mayor Richard O’Brien told supervisors he would like to see the county’s nine cities included in the makeup of the committee.

Also seeking a guaranteed seat was the top executive of the Building Industry Association of the Greater Valley. In a letter Tuesday to the Board of Supervisors, John Beckman, CEO of the Stockton-based group, suggested the county give him equal status as the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau executive director, who was guaranteed a committee seat.

Beckman wrote that he was Lodi’s representative on the San Joaquin County Groundwater Banking Authority and, with the building group, has “continued my work ... ensuring the availability of water for new development in jurisdictions (within) the territory of the BIA.”

County board Chairman Vito Chiesa had nothing to say about the BIA’s request, but told O’Brien he was satisfied with the makeup of the Water Advisory Committee. Supervisors, on a 5-0 vote, approved the committee’s structure to include the Board of Supervisors’ chairman, the head of the county’s Agricultural Advisory Board and the county Farm Bureau’s executive director.

Besides those designated seats, the committee will have 17 other voting members, including two community members appointed at large and three nominees selected by each of the five county supervisors.

Supervisor Terry Withrow said there is a good chance some city representatives will be appointed. According to the guidelines in a staff report, appointees also could include irrigation district board members or representatives of the drilling industry, business, commerce, agriculture and other sectors.

The county also plans to have a 10-member technical assistance committee work with the advisory panel. Those nonvoting experts are supposed to include representatives from irrigation districts and the cities of Modesto, Turlock, Oakdale and Patterson.

The county will start accepting applications from prospective advisory board members this week. Applications should be available on the county website,, later this week and are available at the counter on the sixth floor of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St. The application period will run through Jan. 24; staff members will bring a list of potential appointees to county leaders in February.

Tuesday evening, retired hydrologist Vance Kennedy of Modesto urged the county to require environmental impact studies before issuing permits for drilling deep wells in the rolling terrain of eastern Stanislaus County. Permit applicants need to show their powerful wells won’t deplete domestic wells in that area, he said.

County officials and a group made up of water district representatives worked for four years on a groundwater ordinance that finally was approved in October. The ordinance is intended to restrict out-of-county transfers and “mining,” defined as wasteful or unreasonable groundwater pumping. County supervisors have said the new Water Advisory Committee will work on needs assessments, groundwater priorities and policies for protecting groundwater as a resource.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or (209) 578-2321.

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