Ken Carlson

Great thirst for Stanislaus County well permits before cutoff date

Workers test for water in Chowchilla in 2008.
Workers test for water in Chowchilla in 2008.

The rush to turn in well permit applications in Stanislaus County continued right up until Tuesday’s start date for a more stringent review policy.

The county Department of Environmental Resources said it received 61 well permit applications in the final three business days before Tuesday, including 17 on Nov. 20; 21 on Nov. 21; and 23 on Monday.

Supervisors approved an update this week to the groundwater ordinance that will require farmers, who apply for well permits on Nov. 25 or later, to show their new wells outside irrigation districts won’t have an undesirable effect on groundwater levels. The effective date seemed to spur a rush on well permits, with the county issuing more than 100 permits between Oct. 1 and Nov. 19.

The county has approved more than 500 permits this year for drilling new wells, including 382 for agricultural purposes.

Supervisors and the Water Advisory Committee are developing policies for sustainable use of groundwater in unincorporated areas. The tougher rules for well permits won’t apply within irrigation districts because those districts have plans for managing groundwater, officials said.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting, county staff clarified a policy issue for rural landowners who want to drill wells for fire protection. An owner could get approval for a fire suppression well for an almond huller or packing facility based on the public benefit. If it’s combined with a well for irrigating orchards, the owner will need to show the irrigation component won’t harm nearby wells, staff said.

Since September, the county has offered financial assistance for eligible homeowners needing to replace failed domestic wells in unincorporated areas. According to a report, four loans have been approved for owner-occupied residential properties and one well has been completed. The average replacement cost for the wells was $13,300.

The county allocated $200,000 for loans to low- to moderate-income homeowners whose wells have failed during the drought. Preference is given to seniors on fixed incomes, and loan recipients are expected to repay the debt over five to seven years at 1 percent annual interest. With the intense demand for agricultural wells, residential owners have been waiting three to six months for drilling businesses to sink their new wells.


PATH TO HEALTH –

The hospital on Delbon Avenue in Turlock has resources to help families and individuals enroll in health plans. Trained counselors are available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Emanuel also said it plans community enrollment events for January and early February.

The enrollment period for 2015 health coverage began this month and continues until Feb. 15. Path to Health representative Gabriela Hernandez can be reached at (209) 669-4667.

Path to Health is an education initiative of Tenet Healthcare Corp. The Dallas-based company completed an acquisition of Emanuel Medical Center in August.

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

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