April 20, 2023, appearance at Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Meeting. Executive Director Dayna Ghirardelli commented on both the Local Coastal Plan (LCP) and the Well Ordinance agenda items. With regard to the Well Ordinance, Dayna thanked the Board for the opportunity to participate on the Policy Working Group, noting that the present version is not perfect but it is commendable that members from all stakeholder groups had input on it. Certain items were flagged as concerning, including the burden on ag users that would come from the metering and monitoring requirements. Dayna commented on the importance of ongoing data collection to update policies based on science, and expressed support of staff’s recommendation to seek funding to accommodate data collection in all areas in an effort to relieve the burden on non-residential metering, monitoring, and reporting.
The Well Ordinance Working Groups have commenced. Executive Director Ghirardelli has been involved and engaged in the Policy Working Group. This group is working separately but in tandem with the Technical Working Group.
SCFB ED Dayna Ghirardelli’s Public Comment on Well Ordinance Amendment
“Coming on board as the SCFB ED in the midst of this amendment proposal, I feel a little behind but I’ve been working hard to learn all about this, along with a myriad of other things, as you can imagine. However, it doesn’t take much to recognize that this is a broad stroke to mitigate the litigation, one that lacks science and imperative background and information need to set sound policy.
Please don’t impose a process in haste that will result in undo expensive delays and additional litigation. With all due respect, I’m not feeling comfortable with the lack of confident answers by staff on questions you’ve posed with the answer being to figure it out later or as they go.
I encourage you to work with all stakeholders on a legally sound ordinance; I hardly consider a discretionary permitting process with a “learn as you go” approach sound policy. Sonoma County Farm Bureau is ready to participate in a working group that will promote sound policy that complies with all applicable Public Trust requirements while avoiding a deleterious impact on landowners, agriculture, the wine industry, and the County’s economy as a whole.”
The Sonoma County Farm Bureau (SCFB), the Russian River Property Owners Association (RRPOA), and the Sonoma Alliance for Vineyards and Environment (SAVE) collaborated on a letter to County Councilperson, Robert Pittman regarding the 2022 Draft Well Ordinance.
The letter addressed the draft Amendment to the Sonoma County Well Ordinance, County Code Chapter 25B presented to the Board of Supervisors at its August 9, 2022 meeting, which will cause widespread harm to domestic, agricultural, industrial, and municipal water users who rely on groundwater across the County. Sonoma County Farm Bureau is concerned that the draft ordinance lacks clear definitions and standards and proposes a discretionary permitting process subject to CEQA that is destined to cause years of delay, great expense, and litigation. The ordinance would result in a de facto moratorium on new and replacement wells, which would have a devastating impact on homeowners, agriculture, industry and the production of new housing throughout the County. Therefore, my clients have directed me to bring a legal challenge if the County does not eliminate the critical faults from an adopted ordinance.
The letter offered six recommended principles to address the County’s public trust obligations while fixing the critical faults of the draft ordinance. An amended ordinance must include reasonable, objective public trust criteria and must retain the ministerial permitting process for replacement wells and new wells for permitted land uses to avoid endless litigation and significant economic harm.
SCFB, RRPOA, and SAVE encouraged the Board of Supervisors to appoint a working group involving all stakeholders.