Thursday, September 27, 2012
By Angelique LaCour
A groundwater recharge project, slated to begin this month on San Antonio Creek, has been put on hold, leaving officials to hope that sources for funding an additional $500,000 haven’t dried up.
The Ojai Groundwater Basin Management Agency (OGBMA) and Ventura County Watershed Protection District began developing the Recharge Project almost three years ago. It was to be funded with $1.2 million from a $25 million Proposition 50 grant Ventura County received to fund more than 15 water security-related projects.
Before construction bids could be accepted for the water diversion project, OGBMA was required to conduct environmental studies and obtain clearance permits from several state agencies, including the California Fish & Game, which has strict permitting compliance guidelines.
“When we got to the point of actually constructing the project we were about $500,000 short because of the costs and time involved in getting all of these entitlements,” Jerry Conrow, OGBMA president, said. “We are now applying to the state through another grant program to complete the construction.”
The project includes the installation of four “passive wells” that will divert water from the San Antonio Creek and funnel it into deep-water recharge wells in the lower aquifers when there are high water flows. Frequently, the lower basins don’t fill with water because it takes a long time for water to percolate down through the five layers to the lower aquifers.
“If you hold your hand in front of you and spread your fingers, and each finger represents an aquifer that holds water, the spaces in between the fingers are clay layers that inhibit the transmission of water between the aquifers,” Conrow explained.The recharge mechanism would refill the two lower aquifers first during times of high runoffs by means of a standpipe in the creek that would siphon water into the underground basins when the water reached a certain level.
The region is experiencing a second year of low rainfall and OBGMA is monitoring the basin’s levels. If the basin’s lower aquifers aren’t filled during heavy rains the runoff finds its way into the Ventura River and is lost to the Ojai Valley.
But the city of Ventura likes it that way.
“Ventura fussed about how much water we might bleed into the basin,” Conrow said. “They have already limited our ability to take runoff water which would go into the ocean during a storm with rapid flows.”
OGBMA hopes to capture from 400 to 500 acre feet per year.
“But Ventura prevailed to make it that we have to shut the recharge mechanism off if they decide we are taking too much,” Conrow said.