Officials are concerned that the smallest unincorporated towns in Stanislaus County are particularly vulnerable to the drought.
Crows Landing, six miles south of Patterson, has only two wells to serve its 350 residents, Bonita Elementary School and businesses on Highway 33. And one stopped working three weeks ago.
Ignacio Lopez, director of the Crows Landing Community Services District, said he will soon know if the pump screens are plugged or the sinking water table is to blame for the well failure. A contractor will lower a camera down the well shaft to find out.
In the meantime, the district is relying on the second well, located on the east side of town, to supply its 137 customer hookups.
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Lopez, a former public works director for Patterson, said the groundwater level has dropped 50 feet in the past year. The level was 86 feet in 2013 and is 136 feet this year. He measures the level with electronic probes that signal when they hit water inside the well shaft.
Located on the west side of town, the ailing well is 600 feet deep, but the district manager fears it may be finished because of the poorer water-bearing strata in that location.
The director said he believes the community wells are affected by nearby farming operations, which are pumping more groundwater this summer to irrigate crops or keep trees alive. Lopez does not blame the farmers after federal surface water deliveries to the West Side were cut off this year. Crows Landing would not exist without agriculture.
The district is hoping the pump screens simply need to be cleaned. Costs for a new well would overburden the puny district, whose bookkeeper works out of a Patterson office. Lopez splits his time managing the community services districts in Crows Landing and Grayson.
“We don’t have the money to drill a new well,” Lopez said. The district would need to buy property and bore test holes on the east side of town where groundwater is more plentiful, he added.
Crows Landing could need a state grant or loan to guarantee an ample water supply.
REGIONAL 911 SERVICE
Matrix Consulting Group of Mountain View has been chosen to conduct a second review of the Stanislaus Regional 911 center. County Chief Executive Officer Stan Risen and interim Modesto City Manager Jim Holgersson considered four consulting firms before choosing Matrix, which has experience analyzing the effectiveness of police, fire and emergency medical services in California.
In May, a one-sided report on the dispatch center aired the grievances of Modesto police. The department has long complained about the costs of running the center, its radio equipment, staffing and the inability to make changes. Modesto is responsible for more than half of Stanislaus Regional’s budget, which exceeds $7 million annually.
Police Chief Galen Carroll presented the Jackman Associates study to county officials with the clear message the department would consider leaving the partnership. Risen reached out to Holgersson to smooth things over. They convinced the Stanislaus Regional commission in June to pay for a more objective study to find solutions. The study’s cost is not to exceed $50,000.
Matrix will consider whether the center’s dispatchers are paid too much, as the Jackman report suggested. The consultants also will examine staffing challenges, governance and management structure, and any other issues that hinder operational effectiveness. Carroll has said he heard public and internal complaints about 911 service soon after taking command of the Modesto Police Department in early 2013.
Officers complain they are placed on hold as dispatchers answer 911 calls, which leads to the conclusion more call takers should be hired for the center. Stanislaus Regional provides dispatching services for 22 law enforcement agencies and fire departments in the county. The Matrix report is due in four months.