Valley Center, CA
February 2, 2023

Planning group’s Schmidt says SDG&E violating state water board waiver

Follow-up to: Residents say SDG&E is ‘stealing’ their water

San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) appears to be violating a water discharge waver by the California Water Quality Control Board issued earlier this month by the board, according to Larry Schmidt of the VC Planning Group, whom The Roadrunner contacted Saturday.

Schmidt is the lead for the planning group on this issue after being appointed Monday night to head the group’s subcommittee investigating the utility’s work on Cole Grade Road that is near Cool Valley Road.

Monday night several residents told the group they feared they were losing water from their wells because the utility is pumping it from the ground as part of its undergrounding project. An estimated 100,000 gallons per day is being pumped.  On Wednesday The Roadrunner was told by a County spokesman: “County staff has notified SDG&E to stop dewatering.”

As of Saturday the dewatering hasn’t stopped.

On June 17 Todd Voorhees, regional public affairs manager for SDG&E issued this statement: “We will be stopping dewatering activities when all equipment is safely removed from the pit areas and we can ensure the safety of the road and surrounding area. We truly appreciate the concerns expressed by some in the local community and are not only committed to safety, but to also preserving the environment in which we work.”

Voorhees added, “We have met with County staff and understand their concerns and the concerns of the community. While we have currently ceased jack-and-bore activities at this location and are commencing on ceasing all dewatering activities, water removal is continuing to ensure ongoing site safety, consistent with all applicable environmental laws and regulations.

We will continue to review all options on crossing the creek as this vital fire safety project continues.”

Friday Voorhes wrote to VC Planning Group Chairman Delores Harmes Chavez: “As we work to stop dewatering activities as quickly as possible, we are also developing a monitoring and review plan with arborists, hydrologists and environmental experts to assess what, if any, potential impacts to surrounding areas may have occurred. We will be reaching out to you individually in the coming weeks to discuss any monitoring or inspections that may need to be completed to assist in these assessments.”

On Saturday Schmidt told The Roadrunner: “SDG&E is pumping large volumes of groundwater from a construction project underway along Cole Valley Road in Valley Center.  According to Valley Center sources, Water Board engineer Sherrie Komeylyan [Editor, this is probably meant to be California Water Quality Control Board]  has reported in an email that a waiver was issued to SDG&E allowing them to pump up to 50,000 gallons per day to support undergrounding of a 69KV transmission line.

“But SDG&E construction crews ran into more water than they expected.  More than twice the volume of water — over 100,000 gallons per day — is being removed from the town’s aquifer, stored in tanks, where it will be ‘discharged to the land’ somewhere in the project area, according to the Komeylyan email,” Schmidt wrote the paper.

Internet sources place a person’s average indoor water use at 80-100 gallons per day, meaning that the SDG&E dewatering represents enough water to meet the indoor needs of 1,000 local residents.

“This wastage cannot be allowed to continue,” said Schmidt.  “We want SDG&E to stop this frivolous pumping effort that has gone on for weeks now.  Water is a precious commodity especially in a major drought period like the state is in.”  He added,  “We want the water to be returned to the aquifer instead of being used for random dust control or irrigation by SDG&E.  We need that water back underground so local farmers and town residents will have a predictable supply.”

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