Home » Water Export » ICO Article: Water Bag export opposition ratchets up

ICO Article: Water Bag export opposition ratchets up

This article was published in the
Independent Coast Observer
on February 22, 2002.

Water Bag export opposition ratchets up
By Julie Verran

Courtesy Independent Coast Observer, Gualala, CA

The water bag furor continues to build, with new people and groups joining the defense against multinational export of water from the Gualala and Albion Rivers.

Although Coastal Commissioner/Sonoma County Supervisor Mike Reilly told a meeting in Mendocino on February 15 that the applications were withdrawn for re-working, both project proponent Ric Davidge and State Water Resource Control Board staff say it is not the case.

Wednesday Public Information Officer Liz Cantor said that SWRCB is waiting for maps and details of the proposals. They need a map showing “where Davidge is planning to service these people with water.” It has to be specific, not just a map of San Diego, she added. There is no deadline for more information; no rules.

“We’re just waiting,” Cantor said.

Ross Swinnerton from the SWRCB Division of Water Rights told the ICO Wednesday that the lead agency which will prepare the document under the California Environmental Quality Act is not yet known.

Once the water export projects proposed by Ric Davidge are publicly noticed, various agencies will respond and the lead agency will be determined. Under state law, one acts as lead agency and the others consult with the lead agency, Swinnerton said.

There could be a joint process between more than one lead agency, but that would be unusual, he added. Because these are high-profile projects, there may be a state CEQA document and a federal document under the National Environmental Protection Act as well.

Their environmental division will probably not prepare the document if SWRCB becomes lead agency, Swinnerton said, but the high-profile matter will most likely go to their hearing division once public and agency comment comes in.

Last week Eric Bailey, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, visited both Albion and Gualala. In Gualala he met with a group convened by Jim Koogle of Point Arena.

Kayak entrepreneurs Wayne and Jan Harris, real estate agent Karen Scott and innkeeper Linda Bradbrook told him about the adverse economic effects of water bags.

Artist Ursula Jones, toxics expert Britt Bailey and Koogle, a carpenter, gave the reporter environmental arguments against the proposals. The group took him to the Gualala Bluff Top Trail and showed him a view that the water bag would damage.

Then, the Harrises took him to the Gualala River estuary to see the proposed intake points on the north side of the riverbank.

By Wednesday, the story had not appeared in the LA Times. Bailey, who works from the daily’s Sacramento bureau, told the ICO his story may come out this weekend.

The meeting Friday at the Stanford Inn just south of Mendocino had a panel including North Coast Coastal Commissioners John Woolley and Reilly; Mendocino County Supervisors Patti Campbell and David Colfax; county Planning Commissioners Nancy Barth and Don Lipmanson; with county and Coastal Commission staff present to answer questions.

Colfax called the meeting in response to constituent requests.

The water bag and cell tower issues took up most of the afternoon meeting. The nuts and bolts meeting took place in the morning, with a luncheon, and local appellants to the Coastal Commission were excluded. They were able to bring up some concerns briefly at the afternoon meeting: construction in wetlands, tree removal, and North Coast items set for Coastal Commission hearings in Southern California.

Also at the Stanford Inn meeting, Gualala attorney Doug Hammerstrom asked if the water could be appropriated locally. He also asked why the Albion and Gualala were selected, and whether other rivers have gone through some process that declares their water fully appropriated.

That question was not answered Friday, but on Tuesday Kerry Williams of the Sotoyome Resource Conservation District told the Gualala River Watershed Council Steering Committee that the process is called adjudication; only two streams in California have had their water adjudicated as fully appropriated. [Note: it appears that one of these two is Robinson Creek near Ukiah, not to be confused with Robinson Gulch in Gualala or Robinson Creek in the Gualala River drainage. Do not know what the other adjudicated stream is, but it is not the Gualala or Albion river. JAV]

Coastal Commissioner Woolley, who is a Humboldt County Supervisor from Arcata, said that someone was looking at the Mad River for possible water bag exports, but their proposal “disappeared.” That river was serving two huge pulp mills that used as much water a day as 50,000 people use in a month, which closed, he said, “so we are looking for users of that water.”

Tuesday evening, the Gualala River Watershed Council opened a half hour to public comment at their meeting.

Koogle said the worst thing that could happen to a watershed group would be to lose control of the river to multinational corporations.

Another man said this water could be subject to requisition for military installations in Southern California.

Timothy Osmer advised people to write to Assembly Member Virginia Strom-Martin, who has pledged to fight the water exports. He and Koogle asked Henry Alden of Gualala Redwoods Inc. whether he had talked with Davidge and what the GRI position is. Alden said he had not talked with Davidge and that GRI had no position on the issue.

Wayne Harris said this proposal could be the first step toward offshore oil drilling, because it would severely damage the scenic quality of the area, which is a large part of the protection from oil extraction.

Roger Dingman said the trenching in the river would effectively stop restoration projects. Chris Poehlmann asked the GRWC to orient its estuary study to address the concerns from this project.

Supervisorial candidate David Severn was concerned that the state could be sued under NAFTA for not allowing the water bag project.

Craig Bell said the public needs to be made aware that the proposed intake points for the water are more than a mile upstream. The river needs peak flows to move sediment out and keep the river bar open. The project will need large holding ponds.

Another speaker was concerned about the security measures that Davidge may use to protect the waterbags.

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