What do Larry Byrd, Richard Gemperle, Brad Hawn and Norik Naraghi have in common?
They are among the 43 applicants who want to serve on a Water Advisory Committee whose work could lead to crucial decisions on how groundwater is used and protected in Stanislaus County. The list of applicants released Tuesday includes influential names from agriculture, water districts, city government and the legal profession, but also folks who frown on commercial exploitation of groundwater.
County Supervisor Vito Chiesa said Tuesday that the applicants bring an exceptional amount of knowledge for tackling groundwater issues. “The cities, agriculture and irrigation districts are the stakeholders and we are all a part of the solution. It may be difficult to find consensus, but when we find consensus, we will have great outcomes.”
Of the 11 applicants from Chiesa’s supervisorial District 2 (Turlock, Denair, Hughson), three are from agribusiness, four have ties to irrigation districts, two are elected officials from Turlock and Hughson, and the others are a well driller and schoolteacher.
Some applicants, such as Louis Brichetto and Naraghi, are connected with growing operations with recent well permits that are challenged in a lawsuit filed by Protect Our Water and Environmental Resources. The lawsuit seeks to put a hold on new well permits and charges that the county should have required environmental studies before approving 61 large wells in the past five months.
Each of the five supervisors will appoint three people to the 21-member committee, and the county board will select two members from the community at large. The 19 voting members will include the Agriculture Advisory Board chairman and Farm Bureau executive director. The Board of Supervisors chairman and county water resources manager Walter Ward will be nonvoting members.
County leaders said they wanted a broad spectrum of applicants from the private and public sector – and that’s what they got. “Every person on this committee is going to have a dog in the fight,” Supervisor Terry Withrow said. “What I am going to ask everybody to do is leave their allegiances at the door, because we are working for the greater good of the county.”
Some are skeptical such a committee will work together or develop stronger policies for managing groundwater. A first-ever groundwater ordinance approved by the county in October was criticized for giving a broad exemption to irrigation districts.
Chiesa said he envisions some city officials serving on the committee. Among the city applicants are Modesto Councilman Bill Zoslocki, Turlock Councilman Forrest White, Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra, Hughson Mayor Matt Beekman and Oakdale Councilman Donald Peterson. “I would like to think there will be good representation from the cities,” Vierra said. “I represent city interests, but I understand we have an ag-based economy. We need to find a win-win solution for ag and urban users.”
The nominees for the 21-member panel are expected to be revealed in agenda documents released Friday for next week’s Board of Supervisors meeting. Supervisors could approve the appointments under a consent item.
Modesto Irrigation District Board Member Larry Byrd, who applied, said he wants to see groundwater modeling in eastern Stanislaus County, where newly drilled wells and orchard plantings are changing the landscape and using huge amounts of groundwater. “I don’t want a knee-jerk reaction,” Byrd said. “I want this to be factual. We need to come up with good science.”
Among the 43 applicants are:
District 1 (Supervisor Bill O’Brien): Jack Alpers, Oakdale Irrigation District board; Rachelle Antinetti, former Oakdale councilwoman; Lane Avilla; Alfred Bairos Jr., OID board; Louis Brichetto, grower; John Duarte, nursery industry; Neil Hudson, Stanislaus Water Coalition; Hank Moore; Monica Perrone, landscape architect; William Power; Bill W. Smith; Thomas Smith; Manny Sousa, engineering; Tom Swafford
District 2 (Chiesa): Francisco Canela, Bronco Winery; Darrell Cardova, orchards; Richard Gemperle, poultry industry; attorney Arthur Godwin; Ryan Hollister, Turlock High School science teacher; Albert Rossini, Eastside Water District; Cooper Rossiter, well service; Rob Santos, Turlock Irrigation District board
District 3 (Withrow): Jon Rodriguez, Modesto council candidate last year; Karl von Spreckelsen of Salida
District 4: (Dick Monteith): Attorney George Arata; Jeffrey Cowan, former MID board member; attorney Norick Naraghi; Brad Hawn, former Modesto councilman; Noah Hughes, Modesto Junior College science professor; Jim Mortensen, served on MID water advisory committee; Sean Roddy, well driller; William Wong, Modesto senior engineer; Micah Zeff, orchards
District 5: (Jim DeMartini): Raynold Kablanow, hydrology; Michael Lynch, political consultant