Neighbors in rural Boulevard fear dry wells, impacts on water quality and terrain
By Jeremy Los
Sept. 18, 2011- The Live Oak Holding Company is in hot water with the County of San Diego after it allegedly took part in unlawful groundwater sales for the construction of a new Border Patrol complex off of Ribbonwood road in Boulevard.
Yet despite numerous work stop work orders and public outcry, water removal has continued--and the grading process for the project remains on pace to be finished by the end of the month.
The groundwater being used for the project, which is being overseen by Straub Construction and the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE), is being pumped from the Live Oak Springs Resort. The water is then being transported to the site where it is used for the grading of the 31-acre property laid out for the building.
San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s office is working along with County officials to shut down the groundwater extraction; however, with only a few weeks to go they are fighting against the clock. Along with the stop work orders, the County has already issued financial penalties of $1,000 per day against Nazar Najor, manager of the Live Oak Holding Company, – dating back to the original date the County was made aware of the illegal actions Witnesses report that the sales and pumping were continuing to take place as recently as Sept. 13.
The continuous pumping of the groundwater has put a tremendous burden on the citizens of Boulevard. With no other source of water for these communities, the fear is that continued pumping on the property will eventually lead to well interference or the degrading of the groundwater quality for the adjacent communities.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/gwdepletion.html ) sustained pumping can lead to ground water depletion and related problems including
• drying up of wells
• reduction of water in streams and lakes
• deterioration of water quality
• increased pumping costs
• land subsidence
Water districts are exempt from the County’s zoning ordinance that bars the sale of groundwater in situations like this. Unfortunately for Najor, the Live Oak Springs Resort is not considered a water district by the County, and he has failed to provide the necessary documents to the County to prove his claim. The documents that were provided were reviewed and denied by County Council.
“Mr. Najor’s actions are reckless, thoughtless and detrimental to his neighbors,” said County Supervisor Dianne Jacob in a statement to ECM. “In my opinion, Mr. Najor is greedily capitalizing on a wet year and jeopardizing the fragile groundwater water situation in the Backcountry.”
However, the blame is not entirely on Mr. Najor. According to Donna Tisdale, Chair of the Boulevard Planning Commission, the federal agency managing the build, the ACOE, and Straub Construction have claimed that it would cost too much money to find another authorized site, and seeing that they have less than a month left in the project they have no intention on stopping.
“They are ignoring local laws and local concerns,” says Donna Tisdale, Chair of the Boulevard Planning Commission. “Federal organizations should not be above federal laws.”
The ACOE possibly could have its hands tied in the situation, as they are contractually bound to the project. “They are afraid of being sued (by Straub and Najor),” said Tisdale.
Congressman Duncan Hunter’s office has gotten involved in the issue as well, though from a distance. Following numerous complaints from citizens regarding the issue, Hunter instructed the ACOE to visit the site to ensure that no unauthorized water was being used. According to Hunter’s office, “the visit resulted in fixing some of the infrastructure that had fallen into disrepair, as well as addressing some of the rules and regulations pertaining to driver activity on the local roadways, which had been a part of the local’s initial complaints.”
The ACOE informed Hunter’s office that the company contracted to provide the water (Live Oak Springs) had authorization by the State of California to do so. However, the project was issued a stop work order by the County because the project was extracting ground water without a major use permit. According to stop work order, removal of ground water from a well that exceeds 5,000 gallons per any seven consecutive day period will require a permit.
The 46,000 sq. ft two-story building, which recently had its groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 15, is expected to house a 10-lane 50-yard indoor firearms range, a maintenance building, a Horse Patrol compound, an emergency helipad, and short-stay K-9 kennels.
“At the end of the day Najor will collect money, the County will collect fines and the Border Patrol will have its project,” said Tisdale. “All at the expense of this little community.”