New test wells in Lake of the Woods are dry as regional plan is considered at special meeting

  • A crowd of about 40 that attended the special regional water meeting at the Frazier Park Public Utility District office on October 3. A pre-planning grant for research and dialogue between water well owners was discussed. [photo by Patric Hedlund]

    A crowd of about 40 that attended the special regional water meeting at the Frazier Park Public Utility District office on October 3. A pre-planning grant for research and dialogue between water well owners was discussed. [photo by Patric Hedlund]

Most regional water districts attend

Where independence and urgency collide

By Patric Hedlund

Lake of the Woods Mutual Water Company’s third attempt to find a new water source has failed. “Two test holes were dug, one 250 feet and one 400 feet. Both were dry,” Water Operator Rafael Molina, Jr. reported Tuesday, Oct. 8. He was speaking about the tests near Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in LOW.

A special meeting of regional water well owners was called October 3 by the Frazier Park Public Utility District (FPPUD). Almost every water district in the area had a representative at the meeting.

What is the carrying capacity of the aquifer that feeds most of these systems? Nobody really knows…That is what we need to find out.
—Comments during special meeting called by FPPUD board

The sudden loss of water in Lake of the Woods this summer was followed in September by the announcement that two of Frazier Park’s wells are showing steep 60-foot drops in the “draw down” level (which may mean that recharge from the aquifer is slowing).
FPPUD still has an abundant water supply, including a gushing 500 gallon-per-minute (gpm) well and two springs, but the report of changes is sobering to residents of the area.

Dry wells have been reported in Cuddy Valley. Tejon-Castac Water District well levels have also fallen, its water operator said. A new sense of urgency is evident in the Mountain Communities.

Appx. number of accounts
Fraz Prk PUD 1,400
Lebec County WD 300
Piñon Pines 250
Mil Potrero 2,992 with 2,297 active
Krista Mutual TBA
Tejon-Castac TBA
Pineridge TBA
LOW Mobile Village TBA
These are approximate figures. There are also private wells in LOW, Cuddy Valley, Lockwood Valley and Tejon Ranch.

A source of state funding for research to learn more about the regional aquifer was explained by Dave Warner, Community Development Specialist for nonprofit Self-Help Enterprises. He said the California Department of Public Health is offering a “pre-planning grant” of up to $250,000 to consider possible regional responses to drought and other water problems. The funds pay for engineering and legal research.

Board President Rebecca Gipson said FPPUD invites other well owners, both private and public, to join in an application for the pre-planning research grant. Warner said that participation in the pre-planning process does not imply any obligation to proceed with the next phase of implementing a plan.

“What it does is pay for research that you don’t have to pay for from your own budgets,” Warner said. Then he provided a wide range of examples for ways in which well owners may choose to participate, “depending on regional distances and other details.” He wrote: “We cannot know the full range of options until a local Pre-Planning Group is developed and they have pre-planning funds. The funds will allow the participating groups to review the options with consultation from their legal counsel, LAFCO, engineers and other technical assistance provider(s).”

“This is not being developed so system X will take over systems A, B and C,” Warner said. Here is a sampling of options he mentioned in his note:
1) A mutual aid association to assist with tools, equipment and possibly emergency water supply assistance;
2) A joint-powers entity between independent districts, mutual water companies and private wells (if legally possible);
3) Formation of a government entity (such as a county water district) in consultation with legal counsel, LAFCO and subject to review and approval by the Pre-Planning Group and LAFCO;
4) Annexation by one or more systems of willing adjacent districts and individual properties with wells;
5) Or other options that could be developed in the pre-planning stage in consultation with the Pre-Planning Group (local systems and other water users), legal counsel and others.
Pre-planning funds do not pay for construction or detailed facilities design. If an entity is formed, it would be eligible to apply for state revolving fund (SRF) grants. SRF planning funds can then be used to drill test wells, test treatment methods for water quality and to prepare plans. Then, SRF construction funds would help to build the project.
By Wednesday, Oct. 9 at 1 p.m. FPPUD received a letter from Lake of the Woods Mutual Water Company expressing interest in joining in the pre-planning grant application.

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This is part of the October 11, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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