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Arroyo Grande could deny a domestic water well despite protests in its favor 

Michael Harris has been fighting the city of Arroyo Grande for a year and a half. He wants to drill a domestic water well on his property, but city staff isn't keen on it.

"I definitely think there is individual discrimination going on for sure," Harris told New Times. "I think that's without question; I mean, there's plenty of proof."

click to enlarge DENSE OAK FOREST Michael Harris has been trying to build a domestic well on his 55-acre property of dense oak forest for the past year and a half. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL HARRIS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Michael Harris
  • DENSE OAK FOREST Michael Harris has been trying to build a domestic well on his 55-acre property of dense oak forest for the past year and a half.

Since October 2022, Harris has had numerous conversations with city staff about building a well on his 55-acre parcel at the intersection of Noyes Road and Equestrian Way.

"On March 20, 2023, we got an email from [Associate Planner] Patrick Hall that said that he had distributed the staff report for final review, and we will be on the next consent agenda for approval, and on the consent agenda everything just goes through—so they were clearly going to approve it," Harris said. "Then the city went dark, and on May 1, I got an email from Patrick saying that the city had decided it's not in the best interest of the city to have a domestic well at that location and they were recommending that the city deny it."

Staff recommended that the City Council deny the permit because it's both feasible and practical for Harris to connect to the city's water supply, according to a Feb. 27, 2024, staff report.

"The subject property is immediately adjacent to the city's Reservoir No. 5 which is a 1.2 million gallon above-ground storage tank. Second, a residential water service connection can be made directly to the city-owned water main from the tank and a connection placed to Mr. Harris's property line with a standard water meter on the property," the staff report states. "The connection from Reservoir No. 5 to Mr. Harris' property would be approximately 50 feet in length along generally level land, with minimal surface restrictions."

Since 2005, the city has approved 10 well applications with two being domestic wells. The staff report states that both of those properties are located in the same general vicinity and they determined it was neither practical nor feasible to extend services to these properties because the nearest waterlines were located more than 1,000 feet away.

The staff report also states that the connection from the reservoir to Harris' property would not require any easements or improvements to existing city infrastructure, and the connection to the property is within city limits.

However, Harris said that it would cost him more than $300,000 to dig a trench under his property to connect to the reservoir and that would put him in financial hardship as well as damage thousands of protected oak trees on his property.

"They're basically saying we don't have to consider you or consider what it takes for the property owner to connect to the city water, all we have to do is put a water meter anywhere on your property line that we choose," he said. "We can put it against all the protected oak trees, over a 30-degree slope, and over the resistant sandstone everywhere. But I want to ask, would any of them pay $300,000 to dig a trench to connect to the city water?"

While being relatively close to Reservoir No. 5, Harris said his property is still more than 2,000 feet from any city well, and if he built a well it would connect to a different aquifer than the one the city uses, so he doesn't understand the hesitation to let him move forward.

According to the city staff report, "The well site is outside of the adjudicated Santa Maria Groundwater Basin and is located in the Los Robles Aquifer. The closest city well is located about 2,800 feet away southwest of the proposed well site. Because the proposed well would not tap the same aquifer utilized by the city's wells, staff's determination is that there is no anticipated interference or depletion to the city's system from the requested well."

Arroyo Grande community members came to Harris' aid during public comment at the Feb. 27 Arroyo Grande City Council meeting.

Harris' neighbor said significant wildlife, including bobcats, deer, and turkeys roam through Harris' property and building a trench to connect to city water would impact wildlife and destroy oak forest as their roots would be harmed.

"I really think that the blasting of rock that would be required to make the significant trench is something that I think all my neighbors would prefer to avoid on both sides of Noyes Road," Harris' neighbor said. "We lose our trees—we have butterflies, we have migrating birds, we have all kinds of things that go through that area, and I've seen it for 23 years. I'd appreciate if you wouldn't destroy the trees and you wouldn't have us listen to blasting rocks as it destroys our quality of life."

The Arroyo Grande City Council planned to vote during its April 9 meeting. Δ

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