SDG & E ordered stop dewatering at Valley Center, neighbors upset – NBC 7 San Diego
San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) is currently installing underground power lines off Cole Grade Road to mitigate the risk of fire in the community. But neighbors say the company uses pumps to extract their precious resource: water.
Since April, neighbors have documented meter readings and filmed 12,000-gallon tanks, claiming SDG&E was pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per day from four wells in a process called dewatering.
Lawrence Schmidt is a member of the Central Valley Planning Commission. He said: “We all understand that dewatering is necessary for the projects and for the widening of the road, but in the middle of the fire season, killing the trees and removing all the water; it just seems like a very poorly planned operation.
The company used some of the water to help reduce dust from their project, but it’s unclear exactly where the rest of the water goes.
Kristen Bazata is an olive grower who relies on a well fed by the Keys Creek aquifer.
“It robs us of our livelihood,” Bazata said.
Bazata and her neighbors – who have been trying to stop the dewatering for months – fear the company will withdraw all groundwater, leaving their wells dry and putting them more at risk in the event of a forest fire.
“At the moment, we can’t even water our trees because taking a shower is more important than making sure my trees have water,” Bazata said.
In the notification letter approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, prior to commencement of work, SDG & E wrote in part: “… this project will not create significant direct, indirect or cumulative effects.
On June 18, San Diego County Public Works issued a stop work order because SDG & E’s excavation permit did not include dewatering operations.
But there is a loophole, SDG & E can still pump water as long as it is “needed to control erosion and protect the property”.
“The stop work order that SDG & E received from the county states that all work under the excavation permit, issued by the County of San Diego must stop, “except that which is necessary to control erosion. and protect property ”. Drainage is necessary to ensure site safety and therefore complies with the stop work order. SDG&E continues to communicate with the county regarding the dewatering and the plan to safely demobilize the dewatering by June 30.“
-Brittany Syz, Director of Environmental Services and Sustainable Development.
SDG&E has confirmed it has closed two monitoring wells, but two wells are still pumping 45,000 gallons per day. The company did not provide NBC 7 with an accurate reading of the four pumpings since the start of the dewatering.
“We stopped pumping water from the two monitoring wells on June 22, and the monitoring wells recharged to water levels before construction. At the start of the project, we expected between 6,900 and 13,000 gallons per day. The levels started to rise in early May; As of today, June 25, 2021, we are pumping 45,000 gallons per day from the two boreholes, based on our flow meter readings. SDG & E’s current dewatering efforts are in accordance with project approval issued by the California Public Utilities Commission and any applicable water discharge requirements. “
“I feel like they’re just trying to capitalize on that timeline and they’re shutting things down, but I think they’re sort of trying to milk every drop and get every drop out of the ground. until they’re really forced to do it and end the build all together, ”Schmidt said.
Neighbors are now trying to put the water back underground, but this requires more permits and testing to ensure there is no contamination.
A “Save VC Water” protest is scheduled for Saturday at 10 am near the Cool Valley Road and Cole Grade Road construction site.
“SDG&E understands and appreciates the community’s concerns regarding the unexpected conditions encountered by our project as we worked to move our transmission line underground. We are working diligently to perform a more in-depth analysis to provide additional information to the community. SDG & E’s current dewatering efforts, which are in compliance with project approval issued by the California Public Utilities Commission and all applicable water discharge requirements, are nearing completion. As we safely demobilize operations, the construction site’s two monitoring wells have recharged to pre-construction water levels. Safety continues to be our top priority, with an unwavering commitment to preserving the environment in which we work.“said Syz.
SDG & E plans to stop dewatering activities by Wednesday, June 30. The entire project is expected to be completed by November 15, 2022.