By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The California Coastal Commission is considering an appeal by a Bodega Bay group that is trying to stop the local water district from drilling a new well in what may be an environmentally sensitive area.
The state’s action suspends the approval by Sonoma County of plans by the Bodega Bay Public Utility District for a 100-foot well and chlorination facility at the north end of Bodega Bay.
It also gives hope to Bodega Bay Concerned Citizens, a group of residents who have been fighting the utility district’s plans for three years.
“We’re not saying don’t drill a well, we are saying don’t drill a well here,” said Margaret Briare of Bodega Bay Concerned Citizens.
The utility district wants to drill a 100-foot-deep well on private property off of Bay Flat Road and near the Bodega Dunes Campground, with a chlorination facility nearby.
The well is necessary to increase the district’s water supply to comply with state Department of Public Health Safe Drinking Water Standards, said Oakland attorney Leah Goldberg, who is representing the utility district in the appeal.
The district must be able to meet the peak demand of its customers without having to use storage facilities, Goldberg said.
The utility is not allowed to develop additional wells within the nearby Bodega Dunes Campground, a state park where the utility now has a well field.
“There were other locations looked at, but this is the best location because they can’t take any more water out of state park and the technical study showed there is most likely to be water here,” Goldberg said.
According to the staff report by Sonoma County planners, the well would service existing customers and not be used for new connections. The Board of Supervisors also ordered additional monitoring wells for groundwater and nearby marsh ponds.
The citizens group said the well could affect the freshwater supply to nearby “rail ponds,” named after the type of bird that frequents them.
The rail ponds are between Bay Flat Road and Westshore Road and were created when PG&E constructed Westshore Road in the 1960s as part of its ill-fated plan to build a nuclear power plant on Bodega Head.
The ponds are fed by fresh water from the ground and by the tidal flow of salt water through culverts under Westshore to the bay.
The ponds are also within a Sanctuary Preservation Area identified by Sonoma County’s local coastal plan.
“The main thing is they have been designated as a globally important bird sanctuary, and supposed to be protected from any type of development,” Briare said. “That is why we are fighting so hard.”
According to a study by Peter Baye, an Annapolis ecologist and botanist, there are a large number of plants, animals and birds, including the red legged frog and tidewater goby, that are under state and federal protection that could be affected.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 27 in a 3-2 vote approved a resolution saying there were no significant environmental impacts from the project and granted it a use and coastal permit.
A hearing on whether to consider the appeal will be held by the Coastal Commission next year.