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More time to drill: Stanislaus well moratorium vote delayed

Stanislaus County’s Water Advisory Committee will postpone this week’s vote on whether to recommend a moratorium on well drilling.

The 21-member group, which has been considering groundwater issues for eight months, was scheduled to vote on a proposed moratorium Wednesday.

But Chairman Wayne Zipser sent an email to committee members Thursday evening asking them to push back the discussion until Oct. 29.

“I am requesting additional time to complete the additional work and analysis of the impacts of such an action so that we committee members are fully prepared to make a well-informed decision,” wrote Zipser, who also manages the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau.

Community members started advocating for a ban on drilling of new agricultural irrigation wells last year after numerous domestic wells began going dry. There are fears that increased pumping by farmers – coupled with the drought – is causing groundwater levels to decline.

Committee member Mike Lynch, who has been pushing for a moratorium vote, said Friday that he is OK with the delay.

“I understand the (Stanislaus County Board of) Supervisors will act on it after our recommendation. This will allow serious consideration of the issue and its complexity by all parties,” Lynch explained. “I support Wayne’s request and expect everyone will be better informed to take a formal position on the 29th.”

While the committee and supervisors delay deciding whether to stop new water wells, the run continues on applications for drilling permits.

This year, at least 415 new well permits have been issued, compared with the 182 permits issued during the same period last year. By comparison, 174 permits were granted during all of 2012.

Wednesday’s committee meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the Kirk Lindsey Center, 1020 10th St., Suite 102, Modesto.

In the meantime, Stanislaus residents who are having well water troubles are encouraged to report it to the county’s Department of Environmental Resources by filling out the online form at www.stancounty.com/er/pdf/report-well-problem-form.pdf or by calling (209) 525-6710.

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