October 23, 2013

Turlock officials want county to halt new ag wells

Turlock city leaders want the drilling of new agricultural wells to stop. The City Council passed a resolution authorizing officials to send a letter to the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors requesting they consider a drilling moratorium until new groundwater regulations can be developed.

City leaders want a stop to new agricultural wells across the county.

City Council members voted unanimously Wednesday night to draft a letter to the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors requesting members to consider a moratorium on drilling for new agricultural production wells.

Council members also want a stakeholder group to be convened to consider new groundwater-pumping regulations.

The letter will ask that the stoppage continue until the new regulations are in place.

Turlock Municipal Services Director Michael Cooke said the action is necessary because of the rapid conversion of land in the eastern part of the county from pastures to orchards and vineyards.

“Our water supply is entirely reliant upon groundwater for our drinking water supply. Over time, it has become increasingly difficult for us to provide adequate quantity and quality of water to our residents and businesses,” Cooke said. “We have a concern, we want to go on record, and we want to encourage others to do the same.”

Cooke said new pumping of groundwater to feed the almond orchard boom in the area, as well as an ongoing drought, has put the squeeze on the city’s water supply.

The U.S. Geological Survey, the Turlock Groundwater Basin Association and the Modesto Groundwater Basin Association have received funding to study the effects of the new agricultural groundwater pumping in the area. But those reports are not expected to be completed for another one to two years.

Councilman Forrest White said that until then, the letter is a way to keep pressure on the supervisors to begin the process of drafting new groundwater-pumping regulations.

“One of the words to look at is that the supervisors ‘consider’ a moratorium. We’re not telling them to do a moratorium,” he said. “We want to move them in that direction, that they should study it and give a hard look at it.”

Fellow Councilman Steven Nascimento said supervisors have been thinking about new regulations for the last four years without results yet.

“Imposing some sort of moratorium would give them that incentive to really fast-track that item,” he said.

Turlock Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Sharon Silva said the resolution has the backing of the chamber, which is also working on getting a moratorium imposed across the county.

“One of projects we’re taking on right now is one of the groundwater issues,” she said. “We’re really afraid for the future of this community for that.”

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