FOUNTAIN VALLEY -- Plans for the Laguna Beach County Water District to
build a well in the city were put off Tuesday after local residents
Laguna Beach County Water District's board of directors approved the
final draft of the project's environmental-impact report, but unanimously
voted not to proceed with plans until the district can address concerns
raised at the meeting.
Fountain Valley officials and residents showed up to protest the possible
drilling of an extraction well at a Laguna-owned piece of property in the
parking lot behind Kmart on Harbor Boulevard and Lilac Avenue.
The Laguna Beach district is looking to lower water rates and create an
emergency source of water by claiming ground-water basin rights dating
back to 1926. Water for Laguna Beach is now supplied by the Metropolitan
Water District of Southern California, which imports water from the
Colorado River and Northern California.
In 1993, the Orange County Water District agreed to let Laguna Beach pump
water from a well in Huntington Beach. However, Laguna has not done so
because the water at that well is contaminated by saltwater.
By trying to drill in Fountain Valley, the district is reaffirming its
rights in the basin, said Jim Nestor, the Laguna Beach district's acting
However, Orange County Water District officials said Laguna Beach doesn't
have any right to take water from a well in Fountain Valley.
"It's an illegal exportation of water," said Ron Wildermuth, the Orange
County Water District's spokesman. "It's a violation of state water
Wildermuth said Laguna Beach has not paid taxes to the Orange County
Water District since the 1940s that would have helped maintain and
improve the basin.
"We worked hard to increase the yield in the basin. They didn't
contribute to the effort," he said.
The Orange County Water District isn't alone in its opposition to
"They haven't properly addressed all the impacts the project would have
on Fountain Valley," said Ray Kromer, Fountain Valley's city manager.
The city and its residents in the Tiburon North and the Harbor Valley
homeowners associations are concerned about the noise the drilling and
the construction of a pipeline along the paved portions of Harbor
Boulevard and Edinger Avenue would bring.
"We're a very quiet complex," said Jean Kulemin, a member of the Tiburon
Homeowners Assn. "Drilling would be intolerable."
The Laguna Beach district said it would get in and out as quickly as
possible and has considered placing residents in hotels during the 45
days of construction needed.
"It's downright arrogant for Laguna Beach to suggest that if we didn't
like the noise we can go to a hotel," Kulemin said.
Before construction would begin, Fountain Valley would need to grant a
permit allowing the district to build the well. City officials have said
they will hold off on granting a permit as long as they can.
Officials from Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana are concerned
that the proposed well would pump water from their water supply. Along
with the Costa Mesa and the Mesa Consolidated water districts, the cities
agree that the environmental report did not properly address everyone's
concerns and how the project would affect their water supply and quality.
Laguna Beach has several alternative plans that include a swap with
another water agency or looking into alternate sites in Huntington Beach.
"It was encouraging that they didn't proceed with the project. Should it
come up again, we will be ready to oppose it," said Bill Ault, Fountain
Valley's director of public works.
The Orange County Water District has said it is ready to proceed with
legal action if the Laguna Beach County Water District decides to move
forward with the project.