Part of Lebec site where Fallingstar hopes to build Frazier Park Estates.
Lebec Water District Hires Attorney to Send Kern County a Warning and School Fears Loss of Well
By Patric Hedlund
Many Mountain Community residents are still in shock, but others are leaping into action after the Kern County Board of Supervisors’ decided April 20 to ignore its own planners and seven years of passionate community debate about Fallingstar Homes’ plan to build 557 houses around Frazier Mountain High School without showing they have access to adequate water.
The Lebec County Water District voted May 2 to hire a lawyer to tell the county it will be liable for damages to local businesses and residents if the water table collapses. El Tejon Unified School District officials are asking what will happen if the high school well goes dry. The TriCounty Watchdogs have started a petition and are researching legal moves. Citizens are setting up carpools to go Bakersfield to testify yet once again.
The Watchdogs’ petition at www.cuddyvalley.org/petition.pdf has collected over 100 names in a few hours as we go to press.
Many are writing letters to the editor of The Mountain Enterprise. A few samples are included in this issue [see links below].
On Tuesday, May 11, there will be a last public hearing and then a vote.
Led by Ray Watson, the Kern County Supervisors indicated April 20 they are poised to ignore the recommendation of their Kern County Planning Department and their Kern County Planning Commission—which both recommended a maximum of 188 homes in the Lebec area surrounding Frazier Mountain High School. The supervisors appeared to want to approve the Paso Robles developers’ 557 homes and a 25-acre commercial district at their upcoming Tuesday, May 11 meeting. That could bring an estimated 1,600-2,800 additional people to the area.
Supervisors appear ready to guarantee the integrity of the proposal according to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements, advancing the entitlement process beyond the state arena, moving onward into Kern County’s own building permit process.
Newly-promoted Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt spoke strongly for the reduced size of the development April 20, after overseeing nearly 30,000 pages of Environmental Impact Study reports, but was ordered by Watson to come back on May 11 with “findings” to enable the board to certify the developer’s plan instead.
Lebec County Water District (LCWD) directors said May 2 that they do not believe Kern County has sufficient basis to certify a 557-home development on the same aquifer from which LCWD’s wells draw their water.
‘We Should Show Up’
“I think we should send them the legal letter and also all show up to speak as community members,” LCWD Director Julie McWhorter said.
The May 11 hearing is at 2 p.m., 1115 Truxtun Ave., Bakersfield in the Board of Supervisors chambers).
Health and Damages
LCWD board members said the fluoride levels in their water are now higher than allowed by the California State Board of Health.
“Our concern is that the lower you go to get the water the more concentrated [the fluoride] is,” said Director Steve Cozzeto.
Directors said that pumping the volume of water that 557 new homes would require will drop the water table even lower, causing greater expense to their district and increased health hazards.
Lebec County Water District has a naturally occuring fluoride concentration of 2.2 mg/L. This is above the standard, or maximum contaminant level (MCL), of 2.0 mg/L.
The water district has been required to send out letters to their residents telling them that children’s teeth may be damaged from drinking the water. At low levels, fluoride prevents dental cavities, but above 2 mg/L can cause brown spots on the forming permanent teeth of children under age 9, the letter says, and above 4 mg/L, may increase risk of bone disease.
Fluoride MCL compliance is based on a running annual average value from the last four consecutive quarters.
Dropping Water Table
The water table has been dropping steadily, they said. Water Distribution Operator Kris Hollands said the water table is at about 168 feet now.
According to Dan Whetton, Acting Superitendent of El Tejon Unified School District, the Frazier Mountain High School well’s static water level dropped to 159.6 feet in February. It was at 157 in the middle of April. On March 27, 2006 it was at 65.6 feet, so it is down 91.4 feet in just four years, with no development yet started at the Fallingstar Frazier Park Estates building site, just 500 feet away.
“I’m tired of these county supervisors pretending to be interested in us when they don’t know what they are talking about,” 31-year Lebec resident Dolores Griffin, 68 said at the LCWD meeting. “Let their families come up and live here and suck on this foul stuff for a year.”
“When I first moved here, to drink water out of the spigot was like sweet spring water. The water quality has been deteriorating. Now the water is so hard you can’t get suds and we’ve watched the quality going down as the amount of housing being built in the canyon has increased. Now every plot of ground has been taken, the demand for water has doubled, maybe tripled since we came here.”
Water ‘Can Be Gone Tomorrow’
Former LCWD Director Dale Mann stood to recount that after the 1952 earthquake, both Castac Lake and area ponds went dry for several years.
“We live on the San Andreas Fault in the center of earthquake country. All it takes is another shift in the ground and it can all be gone tomorrow. The water can just go away.”
LCWD Directors said that bringing about 2,000 additional people to the area would put current residents and businesses at greater risk.
Supervisor Ray Watson said he believes that the housing development is necessary to create economic growth in the area.
LCWD Board Chair Darren Hager, owner of Stage Stop Hay & Mercantile said, “I’d like to have 500 new people walking into my store, but not if it means that we all end up without water.”
The Key Paragraphs
Hager said the letter from the Kern County Water Agency, “had one sentence saying they believe there is enough water in the Cuddy Creek water basin [see statement from developer] but then three paragraphs saying why they probably can’t get at the water….”
In year 2000, The Lebec/Frazier Park Specific Plan was produced, after taking two years to develop with the involvement of Mountain Community residents, at a cost of over $150,000. It specified that the Mountain Communities want the area to maintain its rural feel.
Read more from this issue in response to Frazier Park Estates:
‘This Project Has Changed A Lot’ Says FPE Developer
Editorial: Last Minute Rush of Frazier Park Estates is Ill-Advised
Rebel Spirit and Watsonville
OpEd on Frazier Park Estates: The Rest of Us Be Damned
Frazier Park Estates and the Almighty Dollar
This is part of the May 07, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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