An environmental group is challenging a West Marin water supply project it says could harm endangered salmon in Lagunitas Creek.
Gordon Bennett, president and founder of the Inverness-based Save Our Seashore organization, filed an appeal with the California Coastal Commission asking it to require the North Marin Water District to maintain adequate stream flows after construction of the ‘a proposed well near Point Reyes station.
“Even a small reduction in water level on the two-mile stretch affected by the proposed well could dry up acres of floodplain and isolate pools in which special species fish would be trapped,” Bennett wrote in his appeal. to the coastal commission.
District Water Director General Drew McIntyre said the well is critical to ensuring that the approximately 1,800 West Marin residents it serves have sufficient potable water in the face of worsening contamination by salt water from existing wells.
“We are focusing on the Gallagher wells as a low salt water source and we see this as the more conservative solution,” McIntyre said.
The district has already set up a 3,500-gallon emergency tank at Point Reyes station in case the salt levels in the wells are high enough to become a health risk for residents on a low-salt diet. The new well, which was originally slated for construction this summer, could have prevented the need for such an emergency option, district officials said.
Bennett’s challenge comes after two unsuccessful appeals to the county earlier this year.
A coastal commission hearing is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 12, McIntyre said, although commission staff said a specific date has yet to be set.
The North Marin Water District has three wells that it uses to serve residents of Point Reyes Station, Olema, Inverness Park and Paradise Ranch Estates. Two of the wells, located on a former Coast Guard low property at Point Reyes Station, have seen worsening drought due to salt water contamination from rising sea levels and the removal of a dam on the Lagunitas stream in 1997, according to district officials.
The district will begin using an emergency water tank if salt levels reach 115 milligrams per liter. The highest level was 58 milligrams per liter on August 1, according to McIntyre.
A third well completed in 2015 at Gallagher Ranch outside of Point Reyes station is at a higher elevation and is unaffected by salt water. This well produced only half of the 300 gallons per minute expected by the district. The proposed new well, known as Gallagher Well No. 2, would allow the district to pump 300 gallons of water per minute and give residents a second source of well water unaffected by salt water, said McIntyre.
The California Coastal Commission will consider the appeal in two stages, the first being a hearing to determine whether Bennett’s challenge raises a material issue with the California Coastal Act. If the commission finds a problem, it will take over the county’s permit review and determine if the permit still needs to be issued.
If the project survives the call, McIntyre said, it would likely be completed in early spring or summer.