Cattlemen: 'It's creating a solution for a problem that doesn't exist'
By TIM HEARDEN
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Farm groups are lining up against a bill in the California Legislature that would make landowners' well logs available to the public.
Since 1949, the state has required notification from well drillers whenever a well is created, deepened, reperforated or destroyed. The well completion reports include details about the well's depth, the type of soils encountered at each elevation and depth to water, according to a state Assembly bill analysis.
Until now, the information provided to the state Department of Water Resources has not been readily accessible to the public. State Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, wants to change that, reasoning that the geophysical data is important to ground water managers, consulting hydrologists and others.
But the California Farm Bureau Federation, the California Cattlemen's Association and other farm groups oppose the bill, calling it unnecessary and worrying it could jeopardize the safety of drinking water.
"The information is available to the people it needs to be available to," said Justin Oldfield, the CCA's director of government relations. "From a public perspective, there's a lot of concern about putting this information out there about what wells are pumping water and how much they're pumping.
"This wouldn't help anything," he said. "It wouldn't solve a problem. It's creating a solution for a problem that doesn't exist."
The bill passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee, 11-6, on Aug. 18 and was sent to the Assembly floor. It passed the Senate, 25-14, on June 2.
In a letter to Pavley, the Farm Bureau noted that ground water management agencies already have access to well information to better manage ground water locally.
"No beneficial purpose could be gained by making this confidential data available to the public," the organization stated in its Aug. 18 letter. Officials from the CFBF were unavailable for comment last week.
Farm groups pointed to another letter from the California Police Chiefs Association, which expressed concern about the public-safety threats caused by making well information public.
"Put simply, the unfettered release of this information to the general public creates opportunities (for) individuals or groups that seek to do harm by attacking public water systems," CPCA government relations manager John Lovell wrote on Aug. 9.
Legislation in 1965 naming the state Department of Water Resources as the agency responsible for collecting the well information specified that the data was to be made available to government agencies only and not to the public, perhaps to protect proprietary information about soil characteristics and other data, bill analysts say.
Pavley and other proponents say well locations can be determined various ways, such as by aerial photographs, road signs or in public documents prepared under the California Environmental Quality Act.
They argue that details regarding subsurface geology and water depth can be used to develop underground aquifer maps that identify key recharge areas and other features, according to the Assembly bill analysis.
Further, supporters argue that in other states reviewing well logs is considered due diligence when buying a home with an existing well or drilling a new one, the analysis states.
The Department of Water Resources spends between $100,000 and $125,000 annually to remove identifying personal information from well completion reports, according to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Senate Bill 263
Proposal: Make depth, soils and other information in well completion reports available to the public.
Author: Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, http://dist23.casen.govoffice.com/
Proponents include: Groundwater Resources Association, http://www.grac.org/
Opponents include: California Farm Bureau Federation, http://www.cfbf.com/
Read the bill: http://leginfo.ca.gov/