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Gualala River: Unauthorized diversion by the North Gualala Water Company

Settlement Agreement between

State Water Resources Control Board
and North Gualala Water Company
Water Company will pay a fine of $11,600, avoid making new service connections until it has submitted a revised water supply contingency plan and a revised streamflow measurement plan, and petition for change in the existing bypass term or apply for additional water appropriation.

The North Gualala Water Company (NGWC) has pumped water from its wells adjacent to the North Fork Gualala River at Elk Prairie during low flow periods in violation of its permit for many years, and failed to do mandated stream flow monitoring or prepare an adequate water supply contingency plan, according to the State Water Resources Control Board.

The North Fork Gualala River has been designated by the National Marine Fisheries Service as critical habitat for coho salmon and steelhead, both listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. NGWC’s unauthorized diversions may have reduced the amount of flow in the North Fork and may also have reduced the available habitat for the listed species.

The water company has argued that the water it pumps at Elk Prairie is percolating groundwater, and therefore not under the jurisdiction of the State Water Board. The Board has ruled that the water is extracted from a subterranean stream and is therefore under its jurisdiction.

NGWC sued the State Water Board in Mendocino County Superior Court, which found that the Board has jurisdiction over the subterranean water flows under Elk Prairie, where the Comapny’s wells are located. On appeal, the Appellate Court upheld the Board’s jurisdiction over the Company’s wells. NGWC appealed to the California Supreme Court, which denied review of the litigation.

In response to the violation of the North Gualala Water Company’s permit, the State Water Board has prepared a draft Cease and Desist Order and Administrative Civil Liability Complaint. In June, 2009, the NGWC reached a Settlement Agreement with the Water Board.

Read the details:

See also:

“Psst… Groundwater and Surface Water Do Mix”
Gualala River
An article published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters describes a new and simple way of measuring groundwater’s contribution to small streams on the surface.
NYTimes, February, 2011