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Group plans to sue over Stanislaus County well permits
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Jan 15th, 2014 9:00 AM
POWER asserts that the County is issuing permits without first doing the environmental review required by the landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
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Group plans to sue over Stanislaus County well permits

by Dan Bacher

An attorney representing Protecting Our Water & Environmental Resources (POWER) has sent a demand letter and notice of intent to sue to Stanislaus County and sixteen entities, including farming and cattle ranching operations, that were recently granted 59 permits by the county to construct wells allowing extraction of large quantities of groundwater.

The letter was sent as Californians struggle to deal with drought conditions in streams, rivers, reservoirs, lakes and groundwater supplies throughout the state. 2013 was the driest record in California history – and no relief from the drought is currently in sight.

POWER asserts that the County is issuing permits without first doing the environmental review required by the landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

"The fundamental purposes of CEQA are to inform government decision makers and the public about potential significant environmental impacts of proposed activities such as groundwater extraction, and to identify ways that environmental damage can be avoided or minimized," said Jerry Cadagan, POWER spokesman. "Those purposes are frustrated when Stanislaus County issues hundreds of permits for high volume groundwater extraction without first doing environmental review."

San Francisco attorney Thomas Lippe, who has considerable prior experience in similar cases, represents POWER.

The letter asks that the County immediately agree to do CEQA environmental review of all new and pending well permit applications. It also asks that the permits recently issued to the sixteen permit holders named in the letter be revoked and that the permit holders agree to environmental review before re-approval.

If the requests are not agreed to, POWER intends to initiate a lawsuit or lawsuits on or before January 22, 2014.

The overdrafting of groundwater aquifers has been a major environmental issue in the San Joaquin Valley for many years. Jim DeMartini, chairman of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, told the Modesto Bee, “There’s no doubt we’ve been overdrafting our aquifers for years” said “I think we should have dealt with this issue before we ever got to this.”

Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/2014/01/09/3125927/environmental-lawsuit-threatened.html#storylink=cpy

What would be the impact of the well drilling upon struggling Central Valley salmon and steelhead populations?

“We can safely assume that with so many wells being in very close proximity to two rivers, the Stanislaus and the Tuolumne, that water that would otherwise go downstream will end up filling the void in the aquifer caused by pumping,” said Cadagan. “Thus, we would have less freshwater going downstream into the San Joaquin River and the Delta.”

The lawsuit takes place as Governor Jerry Brown continues to fast-track his highly unpopular Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels. The 35 mile-long twin tunnels would divert water from the Sacramento River for corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, developers and oil companies. The $54.1 billion Bay Delta Conservation Plan would hasten the extinction of Sacramento River winter run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species.

For further information, contact POWER’s representative, Jerry Cadagan, or POWER’s attorney, Thomas Lippe, with questions:
Jerry Cadagan: Email - socialchr [at] aol.com; Phone – 209-536-9278
Thomas Lippe: Email – lippelaw [at] sonic.net; Phone – 415-777-5604