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Goleta Pursuing Ordinance Prohibiting New Groundwater Wells

The city of Goleta will reach out to stakeholders to craft a new draft ordinance prohibiting new water well development — updating a city code that hasn’t been changed since 2002.

The Goleta City Council on Tuesday formally approved creating new regulations for a specific groundwater basin as the area settles into its fourth year of drought.

The move followed a 3-1 vote last month, with Councilman Roger Aceves dissenting and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Farr absent. Farr was absent again Tuesday due to an undisclosed medical event that happened the weekend of Aug. 8.

With Farr absent last month, a related urgency ordinance that would have immediately placed a moratorium on new wells in the western portion of the groundwater basin was defeated 3-1.

A four-fifths vote was required to pass it but Aceves opposed that ordinance, because it hadn’t been heard by the ordinance committee and said he didn’t sense urgency. 

City staff said no private property owner has filed an application to drill from the specified groundwater basin since Goleta incorporated in 2002.

However, the decision to create groundwater well regulations was unanimous this week. 

The ordinance came about when the Goleta Water District recently informed the city that law didn’t yet govern a western portion of groundwater basin.

Although the district serves most Goleta residents, there are wells that existed in city limits prior to incorporation.

The Goleta Water District declared a Stage III Drought in May, and in June unanimously approved higher water rates, fixed meter charges and a new drought surcharge.

Goleta officials said an ordinance would help the district protect and manage groundwater basins, ensuring public health, safety and the welfare of residents.

Council directed staff to work with stakeholders and develop permanent regulations for the section of groundwater basin, especially the Goleta Water District as the purveyor of water.

At the meeting last month, water district officials said they hadn’t even heard about a possible new ordinance.

Staff intends to vet the draft ordinance at an ordinance committee meeting before bringing it back to the City Council in the fall for final approval.

Members of the public can comment at either meeting and a new ordinance would take effect 30 days after council approval.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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