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The State protests

On January 25th, the SFWQCB sent letters to both Rohnert Park and to the County. The letters dealt with Rohnert Park's now infamous Water Supply Assessment and the County's assessment district in Canon Manor West. Why two letters?

Both Rohnert Park's WSA and the Canon Manor EIR examine the SAME STUDY AREA. However, while one document claims that a mere 118 new houses would exert a "significant and unavoidable" impact on the region, including further damage to the already-overdrafted groundwater basin, the other document miraculously discovers abundant water for 4,500 new houses and 5 million square feet of commercial space.

The letters from the SFWQCB arrived around 4:30 to Rohnert Park, the deadline was 5:00. The night of the WSA vote (Tuesday, January 25th), several Council members spoke out against the SFWQCB letter, condemning the Board itself as "unprofessional", claiming that the first notice of the letter was a hand-delivery by John King and that this letter was not signed. Many audience members said that they assumed the Council had implied that King had somehow manufactured a counterfeit letter on his computer. King took a print out of the letter so that a hard copy could be entered into the record that night and also so that it could become a topic of discussion.

Bill Hurley at the SFWQCB office in Oakland has confirmed that the letter sent to Rohnert Park was signed and that the City sent him a receipt for it. King's copy was just that, an unsigned copy. The letter sent to the County in the Canon Manor West issue bore a stamp "original signed", the Rohnert Park letter did not have a stamp.

It's important to bear in mind that Rohnert Park's breach into a completely different Water Quality jurisdiction, i.e. drafting from Lichau Creek, is not only a grave offense, it's not the first time that this has happened. The SFWQCB has brought this up to Rohnert Park before. Previous attempts concerning this point failed due to lack of evidence. This time, the City has obligingly provided written proof.

Perhaps the most egregious discourtesy is that Rohnert Park's engineers were aware of this trespass for months and not only failed to inform the Water Board, no one bothered to send copies of the DWSA, the Technical Memo or the Final WSA to the Board. In fact the Board was alerted to the problem by Zone 2A Petaluma Watershed members.

Yes, it appeared to be a last minute action. But the reason for this late timing has to do with Rohnert Park's policy of being less-than-forthcoming with evidence, facts and the official record. The Council has, for example, consistently denied O.W.L. representatives access to PES Environmental data; the data that led to the current General Plan's overdraft statement. The City has maintained that it has no access to these data. However, the Final WSA makes it clear that Rohnert Park's consultants had access to these data. The Council has repeatedly introduced significant amounts of new data and then claimed that the public may not comment on these new additions officially because the public comment period is "closed". They have, however, allowed people to speak before them but insisted that anything said would not be part of the official record (what the Council referred to as "bending over backward"). For these and for other reasons our attorney Ed Casey declared to the Council that their treatment of the public has been "unfair." Remember, the original DWSA was approximately 30 pages long. The subsequent Final WSA expanded by an additional 40-some odd pages including whole new sections.

The County deferred their vote until February 8th.


                                                                                               January 25, 2005

                                                                                                File No. 2148.02 (wbh)

Ron Bendorff
City of Rohnert Park Planning Department
6750 Commerce Blvd.
Rohnert Park, CA 94928

SUBJECT:     Inadequacy of City of Rohnert Park Final Water Supply Assessment

Dear Mr. Bendorff:

We understand that the Rohnert Park City Council is considering adoption of the City of Rohnert Park Final Water Supply Assessment (WSA). We did not receive a copy of this report, and we were only recently made aware of these proceedings.  We have reviewed the Draft and Final Water Supply Assessment documents on the City of Rohnert Park’s web site and offer the following comments.

We find the WSA deficient for the following reasons:

The conclusions based on the WSA have not been adequately quantified and validated with suitable hydrologic tests and analysis. The WSA does not assess the likely magnitude and significance of decline in the groundwater table of the Lichau Creek area with regard to all direct-and-indirect project effects, and cumulative effects on beneficial uses of Lichau Creek, which include cold freshwater habitat, migration, spawning, warm freshwater habitat, domestic water supply, agricultural water supply, and groundwater recharge. Additionally, the results of this report appear to contradict the conclusions of other reports conducted in the same study area.

Accordingly, we request that the City Council not adopt the WSA until it has been modified to adequately evaluate the groundwater supply available and the potential significant impacts to the environment within the Lichau Creek drainage and the Petaluma Valley Groundwater Basin. Water Board staff is available to work with the City to accomplish this during the WSA approval process.  Please be aware that as it is the responsibility of the Water Board to protect the quality and beneficial uses of waters of the State within its jurisdiction.  If the WSA is not modified to adequately evaluate potential impacts to ground and surface waters within the Lichau Creek drainage basin, we may need to require technical reports and/or monitoring reports for future projects located within the Southeast Plan Area pursuant to our authority under the California Water Code.

While the study area for this assessment project is located within the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s jurisdiction, the adoption of WSA poses potential adverse impacts to the quality and quantity of waters and associated beneficial uses of the Petaluma Valley Groundwater Basin and Lichau Creek, which are located within the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Board).  Based on our review of the Draft WSA, Final WSA, and the Technical Memorandum, we have determined that the WSA fails to adequately evaluate the groundwater supply available and potential impacts to the Petaluma Valley Groundwater Basin and Lichau Creek. 

We find the WSA inadequate for the following reasons:

  • The WSA relies on simplified water budget analysis that does not quantify inflows to the groundwater basin.
  • The WSA ignores the detailed Rohnert Park specific groundwater modeling study used for the current General Plan EIR (2000). The WSA does not discuss or reference the results of this study, even though the USGS MODFLOW code used for the study provides a more detailed assessment of groundwater supplies.
  • In the analysis of long-term water levels and pumping trends, the WSA relies on a review of the City pumpage data from 1977 to present despite available data for previous years.  In order to accurately predict long-term trends, it is necessary to expand the period of study to accurately reflect the impacts of increased pumping and development. For example, well data provided in the Cardwell Report (1952) could provide additional information on long-term trends.
  • The WSA relies on a simplified view of aquifer system by dividing it into zones for analysis with out considering the geologic conditions present at each site.
  • The Technical Memorandum does not adequately address conflicts with the conclusions of the Canon Manor DEIR, which concluded that an increase in pumping at the Penngrove Water Company well for an additional 110 homes could be a significant and unavoidable impact.

In conclusion, the Water Board is responsible for protection of the quality and beneficial uses of waters of the State within our Region’s geographic boundary.  Notably, Lichau Creek supports a run of steelhead trout (Petaluma Watershed Enhancement Plan, 1999), a species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act as threatened in Central California.Our two main concerns relate to potential ground and surface water impacts associated with increased extraction of groundwater that may further lower the groundwater table in the Lichau Creek area:

1) It could result in the killing of trees along the Lichau Creek riparian corridor and elsewhere in the drainage basin, cause a loss of groundwater recharge to Lichau Creek, thereby producing a loss of dry season refugia pools and increase in temperature of Lichau Creek during summer and autumn months and degradation of water quality, and potential surface feature subsidence; and

2) It may adversely affect the quantity and quality of groundwater available from existing domestic and agricultural wells.    

We appreciate your consideration of this matter. If you have any questions, please contact Matt Graul at (510) 622- 2494, mgraul@waterboards.ca.gov, or Abigail Smith at (510) 622-2413, asmith@waterboards.ca.gov, or me at (510) 622-2364, whurley@waterboards.ca.gov.

                                                                                               

Sincerely,

                                                Original signed by

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          William B. Hurley

                                                                                                Section Leader,

                                                                                                North Bay Watershed Division

Cc: List attached


                                                                                                January 21, 2005

                                                                                                File No. 2148.02(wbh)

Steve Dee
Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department
2550 Ventura Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

SUBJECT:     Inadequate Evaluation of Potential Environmental Impacts - Canon Manor West Subdivision Assessment District EIR (SCH#2003112088)

Dear Mr. Dee:

We understand that the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is considering the certification of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Canon Manor Subdivision Assessment District (project).

We find the EIR deficient for the following reasons:

The EIR does not adequately assess the likely magnitude and significance of decline in the groundwater table of the Lichau Creek area with regard to all direct-and-indirect project effects, and cumulative effects on beneficial uses of Lichau Creek, which include cold freshwater habitat, migration, spawning, warm freshwater habitat, domestic water supply, agricultural water supply, and groundwater recharge.

Accordingly, we request that the Board of Supervisors not certify the EIR until it has been expanded to evaluate and mitigate potential significant impacts to the environment within the Lichau Creek drainage.  As discussed below, we believe that the CEQA process is the appropriate mechanism to evaluate and mitigate significant potential impacts to the Petaluma Valley Groundwater Basin and Lichau Creek, and the Water Board staff is available to work with the County to accomplish this through the CEQA process.  However, please be aware that as it is the responsibility of the Water Board to protect the quality and beneficial uses of waters of the State within its jurisdiction.  If the Canon Manor project EIR does not adequately evaluate and mitigate potential significant impacts to ground and surface waters within the Lichau Creek drainage basin, we would be obliged to require technical reports and/or monitoring reports pursuant to our authority under the California Water Code.

While the project is located within the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s jurisdiction, it poses potential adverse impacts to the quality and quantity of waters and associated beneficial uses of the Petaluma Valley Groundwater Basin and Lichau Creek, which are located within the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Board).  CEQA mandates that Sonoma County as lead agency evaluate all potential significant impacts and impose all feasible mitigation measures for the project (CEQA Guidelines Sections 15021 and 15091).  Based on our review of the subject CEQA documents and responses to comments, we have determined that the EIR fails to adequately evaluate and impose mitigation measures for potential significant impacts to the Petaluma Valley Groundwater Basin and Lichau Creek, as discussed below. 

The Water Board is responsible for protection of the quality and beneficial uses of waters of the State within our Region’s geographic boundary.  Notably, Lichau Creek supports a run of steelhead trout (Petaluma Watershed Enhancement Plan, 1999), a species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act as threatened in Central California. 

We believe that the CEQA process is the appropriate mechanism to evaluate and mitigate significant potential impacts to the Petaluma Valley Groundwater Basin and Lichau Creek, and the Water Board staff is available to work with the County to accomplish this through the CEQA process.  However, please be aware that under California Water Code Section 13267, the Water Board can require any "citizen or domiciliary, or political agency or entity of this State who has discharged, discharges, or is suspected of having discharged or discharging, or who proposes to discharge waste outside of its region that could affect the quality of waters within its region" to furnish technical or monitoring reports.   Accordingly, as it is the responsibility of the Water Board to protect the quality and beneficial uses of waters of the State within its jurisdiction, if the Canon Manor project EIR does not adequately evaluate and mitigate potential significant impacts to ground and surface waters within the Lichau Creek drainage basin, we would be obliged to require technical reports and/or monitoring reports pursuant to CWC Section 13267.

The EIR acknowledges that groundwater is already being withdrawn from the groundwater basin within the Lichau Creek drainage to augment overdrafted/allocated groundwater in the basin to the north, which has apparently caused a significant relocation of the groundwater basin divide (separating direction of groundwater flow) to the south, proximate to Lichau Creek.  The sphere of influence of the groundwater drawdown is reported to already extend beneath Lichau Creek at one location.  The EIR states that the project “could significantly impact groundwater because it could cause more water to be withdrawn from the aquifer then is currently being recharged.”  Despite the acknowledgement that the project may significantly impact groundwater recharge, the analysis fails to evaluate the potential impact of reduced groundwater recharge on waters within our Region.  Evaluation of the potential impacts to the Petaluma Valley Groundwater Basin and Lichau Creek should be based in part on the City of Rohnert Park’s historic high pumping rates, because the court injunction limiting the City’s pumping rates is conditioned upon the availability of water supply from the Sonoma County Water Agency, which may not be available under emergency or drought conditions.  

We appreciate your consideration of this matter and apologize for our delayed comments.   Unfortunately, because the project is located within the jurisdictional boundary of the North Coast Water Board, we forwarded the Draft EIR to that Water Board for its review and comment. The potential for this project to impact waters within our jurisdiction was only recently brought to our attention by local residents.   If you have any questions, please contact Matt Graul at (510) 622- 2494, mgraul@waterboards.ca.gov, or Abigail Smith at (510) 622-2413, asmith@waterboards.ca.gov, or me at (510) 622-2364, whurley@waterboards.ca.gov.

                                                                                                Sincerely,

                                                Original signed by

                                                                                                William B. Hurley

                                                                                                Section Leader,

                                                                                                North Bay Watershed Division

Cc: List attached


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