Solano County

County tackles Green Valley water issues

By From page A8 | January 15, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Solano County is pursuing a new option to provide water for possible development in rural, middle Green Valley.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved working with the Solano Irrigation District to provide water. It approved spending $195,000 to explore the option and do further work on an environmental impact report.

Water has proven to be the sticking point for a proposal to mix 400 homes with 1,490 acres of preserved open space and farms in a 1,930-acre area. Solano County Superior Court Judge Paul Beeman in 2011 ruled a county environmental report needed to further analyze water issues.

Anthony Russo addressed the Board of Supervisors on behalf of major middle Green Valley property owners on the Solano Irrigation District idea.

“We are totally supportive of the option,” said Russo, himself a middle Green Valley landowner. “We believe it is the option to deliver water.”

Solano County previously proposed using wells to serve the development. But Beeman ruled that the environmental impact report’s groundwater analysis was insufficient and relied on outdated and incomplete data.

The county as another option proposed getting water from Fairfield to serve the homes. But some, including Beeman, questioned whether Fairfield can legally provide water to a rural area under voter-approved Measure L. The 2003 city ballot initiative locked in Fairfield’s growth boundaries.

Measure L states that “any urban development requiring basic municipal services shall occur only within the incorporated city and within the urban limit line established by the General Plan.”

The Solano Irrigation District is a special district formed in 1948. Its main mission is to deliver irrigation water from Lake Berryessa reservoir to farms, though it also delivers water to various rural subdivisions and works with Suisun City to deliver water to that city.

“We operate potable systems all over the county at different locations,” Solano Irrigation District General Manager Cary Keaten said in a phone interview after Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

One possibility is that Solano Irrigation District could provide water to Fairfield to be treated for the middle Green Valley. The district would pay Fairfield for the treatment costs and then deliver the water to middle Green Valley customers.

“We have plenty of water,” Keaten said.

Solano County has already spent $1.5 million on developing its middle Green Valley plan, with a fee on building permits from future middle Green Valley development to reimburse the costs. Supervisors on Tuesday said they expect the $195,000 for the latest work to also be reimbursed to the county as development occurs.

Middle Green Valley is located along Green Valley Road north of Fairfield’s Green Valley developments and south of rural developments near Rockville Road.

This rural area for about three decades had been the focus of growth wars between property owners who wanted the option of developing their land and area residents who wanted to preserve the rural atmosphere. The Green Valley Landowners Association for years led the fight against development.

Opposing sides began working on a compromise at about the same time the county updated its 2008 General Plan. By 2011, an agreement had taken shape. Among other things, it involved a system allowing the various property owners to sell and transfer development rights from land designated for preservation to owners of land targeted for the development of three neighborhoods.

In addition, the agreement called for a new Green Valley Conservancy to oversee the open space and farmland.

But a new group called the Upper Green Valley Homeowners Association appeared and sued to try to stop the project. The legal challenge included the water issues and went before Beeman.

Attorney Amber Kemble wrote a letter to the county dated Monday on the county’s latest proposals. It said that Measure T, approved by county voters in 2008, prevents the county from moving forward with the rural middle Green Valley plans.

Deputy County Counsel James Laughlin disagreed. He and other county officials told supervisors that Measure T does not designate middle Green Valley as agricultural land to be preserved from development. Rather, it designates it as a special project area.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

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