A response to the Sonoma County Water Coalition
questionnaire was received from one of the candidates in the 5th District run-off: Rue Furch (RF). We will
post responses from Efren Carrillo if he responds. If you are in contact with him, please encourage him to give time and attention to this.
1. Please outline your concept of a sustainable water policy for Sonoma County,
which would guarantee clean water for future generations?
(RF) In order to create a sustainable water budget, Sonoma County must collect,
compile and analyze all relevant data regarding water quality, supply and demand
including potential impacts of climate change. A 'comprehensive' plan must address
and reconcile surface and ground water basin management, account for the needs of
existing beneficial uses, and stop the race to the bottom relative to overdrafting.
2. If you support comprehensive water
management planning in Sonoma County, how would you implement that policy as County
Supervisor? Assuming you do support such a policy, how soon after election would you
propose a groundwater ordinance, and what would such an ordinance look like?
(RF) I certainly support a comprehensive water management plan and as a Planning
Commissioner I advocated for a countywide master plan in the General Plan update. I
would begin to work with the cities, the SCWA and other agencies to outline a plan of
action that would begin the process necessary to have such a management plan as one of
my first actions as Supervisor. Since we do not know if such a policy will exist in the
current General Plan update, I will work on getting implementations into the Ordinances.
However, I will not wait until the Ordinance update begins. Some of the steps necessary
to create a comprehensive plan would include:
* Collect data from all major groundwater basins -- including State well monitoring
reports for the past 30 years,
* Collect data from all other groundwater basins -- adding well monitoring reports over
* Work with USGS to collect groundwater data, and information regarding areas of
subsidence or potential subsidence and/or recharge,
* Assess water uses for current demand calculations from urban, agricultural, domestic,
biologic, and other beneficial uses,
* Estimate urban, agricultural and domestic well uses based on growth projections,
* Assess potential for increasing (maximizing) conservation measures by all users,
* Assess potential for appropriate re-use. Include Geyserís expansion potential, tree
farms, nurseries, Ag, injection to prevent saltwater intrusion where appropriate, etc.,
* Project scenarios for impacts of climate change, including flashier storm events,
runoff, multi year droughts, etc.,
* Project scenarios for changes by EPA, DWR, USFWS -- especially as regards upstream
* Assess actual capacity of Lake Sonoma, and Lake Mendocino, including sedimentation
rates, and any potential changes in the designated water supply/flood control pools due
to climate change impacts,
* Determine viability (including cost / benefit analysis) of changing supply from Lake
* Assess impacts of alternatives for increasing supply distribution from Lake Sonoma,
* Project scenarios for potential recharge (i.e. slow the flow, take advantage of flood
periods to capture water for recharge, containment ponds, increased stream setbacks, use
of on site recharge methodologies included in development, reduced use of impervious
* Assess existing toxic plumes and potential for them to expand or shift with groundwater
* Assess uses of pharmaceuticals, agricultural chemicals, animal waste etc. -- where
impacts are occurring and where they are likely to migrate or occur in the future,
* Develop collection method to deal with collection of unused pharmaceuticals and to
reduce amount prescribed to that which is needed,
* Work with NCRWQCB to establish water quality standards that are implementable and
supported by county requirements,
* Work with NCRWQCB in support of their stream setback efforts, and of regulations to
require testing of discharges including testing of discharges more frequently and in
* Phase reduction of urban and rural discharges into streams and rivers -- working toward
* Work with Agencies to protect open spaces, including appropriate wetlands, to provide
areas for natural recharge and filtration,
* Use of Reverse Osmosis, wetlands (such as used in Arcata, the NE United States,
Europe) and other cleansing mechanisms should be comprehensively explored for maximum
* Compile data as available into an adaptive management program and run scenarios to
project limits of supply -- both in terms of quantity and quality, by basin/watershed,
* Create an evolving comprehensive master plan for water in Sonoma County.
* Work with neighboring counties to assess regional approach to water issues and to
establish policies and procedures that are mutually supportive of a sustainable future,
* Research federal, state and institutional sources of grant money (this is encouraged
in the Draft General Plan).
3. In February 2005, the State Water Resources
Control Board directed SCWA to provide "a detailed plan of water conservation efforts
which will result in no increase in Russian River diversions." What methods would you
support to ensure "no increase in Russian River diversions?"
(RF) I support expanded use of conservation, and have advocated measures that
would reduce waste for many years. (Refer to answers of other Questions) The Dept.
of Water Resources has begun aerial photography of the Eel and Russian Rivers to map
illegal diversions. Those diversions need to be cut, while alternatives to water supply
are developed such as off-stream collection ponds during major storm events for use
during dry months. If increased groundwater use is assumed to provide a buffer against
drought periods, there must be a counter-balancing effort to ensure active recharge
during normal or wet years. Agricultural uses need to employ drip irrigation and other
water conserving irrigation methods. Sonoma County should not expand its exportation of
water beyond our boundaries until local needs (current and future) are demonstrated to
The SCWA has several permits that may be duplicative of other water rights. These
duplications should be investigated and a determination relative to water rights must be
4. What water-production and distribution
policies should the County develop to both curb the growth of greenhouse emissions and
eventually reduce them to levels that natural systems can handle?
(RF) I was able to insert new language into the updated General Plan to consider
the energy used any time water is distributed/pumped in Sonoma County. We should also
find ways to insure that water supply is closely proximate to its uses. Gravity should
be used as a method for moving water whenever possible. Other sources of clean energy
can also be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I grew up with windmills and
waterfalls as energy producers. Given the large number of rural wells in Sonoma County
(for residential and agricultural uses), I believe the County must do more to find
opportunities and create incentives for solar power to offset energy demand.
5. SCWA staff and consultants have stated
explicitly that water diverted from the Eel River through the Potter Valley Project to
the Russian River is not needed to supply agency customers in the long term. What is
your position on this diversion?
(RF) The assumption seems to be that the water in Lake Sonoma will supply
future water demand. Given the unknown future of water supply from the Eel River due to
external forces such as: an administration change in the EPA, the Mendocino Board of
Supervisorís shifts relative to their own supply needs and proposal to raise the dam,
the potential for PG&E to reconsider its commitment to the Potter Valley Project -- I
am not confident that water from the north is permanently reliable. Therefore, my
position is to move toward a sustainable water future for Sonoma County that relies on
our own resources and phases out use of our northern neighborís water.
That given, I am not secure with the water supply estimates the SCWA projects from
Lake Sonoma. I would require an analysis of the actual capacity of Lake Sonoma with
projections for future sedimentation over the life of the 'project'. Climate change
implications include potentially significant increases in evaporation loss from
reservoir storage, as well as a need to increase the amount of storage capacity
allocated to flood control purposes (given anticipated more extreme storm events in
northern California). This should be factored in to any plans to run pipe through the
Dry Creek Valley and/or build a very expensive treatment facility by assessments analyzed
in a conservative cost / benefit analysis. The economic impacts on the Dry Creek area
would also be considered, just as we insisted be done when Santa Rosa was considering
running a wastewater pipe through downtown Sebastopol to the ocean.
It will be necessary in any sustainable water supply discussion to maximize
conservation, reuse where safe and appropriate, slow the flow of water for increased
recharge to our groundwater basins, among other proven tactics. We must take full
advantage of methodologies for recharge as groundwater is extracted to solve more of
the water supply needs that cannot be met by surface water supply.
No water should be exported beyond our current contracts until we have our own water
supply covered. This must include the SCWAís contracts (cities and Districts), plus the
people and agriculture in Sonoma County who rely on wells. Other beneficial users' needs
must also be met.
6. Will you support wastewater reuse for
irrigation only if it does not result in incidental runoff? What methods would you
support to prevent irrigation runoff?
(RF) There is no good reason to support wastewater irrigation if it results in
runoff. Wastewater reuse has seemed a good idea for many years, but mounting evidence
shows that this type of reuse can have serious lasting health implications. Incidental
runoff adds to the potential for harmful side effects and creates un-necessary burdens on
our rivers and streams which impact the quality of our waters for people and critters.
Irrigation should only be applied to the benefit of the crop being grown so the
amount (and quality) of water should serve the acreage and the crop need therefore
eliminating over watering. Irrigation should never be applied when the soils are already
saturated. This is not only reasonable for the purposes of controlling incidental
runoff -- it also limits the potential for erosion or sedimentation, and the potential of
reclaimed water entering the groundwater supply via percolation (without necessarily
producing above ground runoff).
7. Do you support the concept of building large
regional wastewater treatment systems in environmentally-sensitive areas, such as those
proposed to serve Camp Meeker, Occidental, and Guerneville, as opposed to more local
solutions? What are your ideas for resolving the Subregional Wastewater Treatment Plant,
Laguna, and Russian River winter discharge and water quality problems?
(RF) I support a community based decision making process that will lead to
locally acceptable wastewater treatment systems for each of the villages in question. I
have spoken with the lead staff members with Sonoma Countyís Planning and Resource
Management Department (PRMD), the North Coast Water Quality Control Board (NCWQCB) and
the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) asking for staff support to this end. They are
now meeting monthly with citizens. There are many alternatives to large regional
treatment systems and they have the advantage of versatility to meet each village's
unique needs and circumstances. The numbers of users, the types of use, the stream or
river proximity, the geology and geography of each community should be met with an
appropriate and affordable solution. I doubt a regional solution will fit these
disparate needs. Over the years, Iíve been involved in bringing experts from other
parts of the nation to Sonoma County and/or tapping into their knowledge. We know that
there are solutions that have not been realistically explored for local use and that
the NCWQCB and PRMD are receptive to alternatives that once were not considered viable.
Iíll make sure we continue to pursue these solutions.
As to the Subregional System, the priority must continue to be shifting from a
discharge mentality (ocean/river/Laguna) to a conservation and reuse dominated strategy.
Unlike the more local systems being considered along the River, the Subregional System
is already built and represents a significant public infrastructure investment. So I do
not see an early retreat from that to the more local options outlined above. But I
think a much better effort can be made to transition toward increasing reuse and
conservation in the basin of origin, including gray water plumbing in new construction.
The other complication is that the County has relative little direct control over the
Treatment system operations, but can and should deal with it indirectly with issues of
discharge, new storage or conveyance facilities, resulting water quality, etc.
8. As County Supervisor what would be your
position on continuing to build housing and commercial development in flood plains?
(RF) As a Planning Commissioner I have not been in favor of building in flood
plains, and this will not change. The county has an on-site no net fill requirement that
disallows an increase in building or soils that would push floodwaters elsewhere, and I
continue to support that standard. The implications for existing structures and erosion
problems can be quite devastating. Existing homes should, however, be allowed to rebuild
and in cases where safety is addressed -- they should be allowed some expansion capacity.
The county has a legal liability relative to building in repeat flooding areas. The legal
responsibility is also a moral one because in extreme flood events, lives can be threatened.
FEMA is in the process of creating more accurate flood maps that will help the county plan
for future development. Hopefully, the new maps will take into account the change in storm
events that have increased the impacts of more frequent 'flashier' storms.
The County can make all the proper and prudent decisions, but upstream decisions by
cities or special districts can increase flooding problems downstream in the County.
The pieces of the puzzle include preserving flood storage capacity in the Laguna and
other basins, slowing runoff from urban areas during storm events, controlling upstream
siltation and more. So a complete floodplain management strategy will have to include
the upstream jurisdictions that may have little or no land in the floodplain per se.
The SCWA could exert influence in these arenas.
9. What is your position on allowing gravel
mining to continue in and beside the Russian River?
(RF) The ARM plan stipulates that the county will not allow terrace gravel
mining in the Russian River at the end of a 10 year cycle -- which has passed. I was on
the Planning Commission when the ARM plan was drafted and sent to the Board of
Supervisors. The goal of ending our reliance on gravel from the River was good then and
it is even more important now. We must stop mining the gravel that provides the
filtration for our drinking water. That includes gravel that is both in and next to the
river channel. During the ARM plan process, I asked that the plan require mining to
leave a strata of gravel at the bottom of all the pits in order to retain the cross flow
and filtration of water. This was not supported by the county officials. There may be
localized situations were a clear argument can be made for limited in stream skimming of
bars for the protection of bridge footings, roads, etc., but those issues should not be
used as a rationale for doing more instream mining than is necessary to protect that
specific public good.
The Phase 6 Syar FEIR is due out shortly and I hope many people will read it and
appear at the hearing.
10. Do you support changes in the governance
and mandate of the Sonoma County Water Agency SCWA? If so, what changes would you
(RF) The SCWAís governance structure and mandate comes from the State. It was
created by the Legislature in 1949 to address both water supply and flood control for
future development of the urban areas of the County, with the Board of Supervisors as
Directors. Following the completion of Lake Mendocino in 1959, the Agency signed
contracts first with the City of Santa Rosa (1959) and later Petaluma, Rohnert Park,
Cotati, Sonoma, and Water Districts serving North Marin, the Valley of the Moon, and
Forestville. No responsibility or authority over any other water supply (surface or
groundwater) was given to the Agency. However, no other agency or department has the
authority or expertise to deal with issues of groundwater management or protecting the
water supply interests of all County residents.
Conceptually, it may have made sense at the time, but the mandate and the authority
do not function as envisioned. I would support a change in both the mandate and the
governance structure. A change in State law would be required to implement the revised
governance structure. I will advocate at the State level that the Agency broaden its
governing body to be more like LAFCO, with stakeholders in a position of meaningful
authority including county officials -- and also including well owners (private citizens,
Ag irrigators and others), contractors (cities and Districts) and people who live in the
unincorporated areas of Sonoma County. A broader representation will advocate for
currently unrepresented water users. I will also advocate for a different mandate that
includes the current responsibilities of serving contractors, flood control, -- and adds
meaningful responsibility for clean water supply to all users. The county should be
seriously studying the future of water supply and developing a water budget. We must
know how much water we have in storage (surface and ground water) - how much we project
to use, and where. Pumping water is going to be increasingly expensive so water use
should be as close to a source as possible.