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Water district manager avoids political debate in Morada

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Posted: Tuesday, July 20, 2004 10:00 pm

Morada residents expecting Stockton East Water District Manager Kevin Kauffman to address the possible effects of Stockton developers using up Morada's well water instead ended up with a team of consultants who knew their water issues, but not local politics.

Contacted by phone after Tuesday's Morada Municipal Advisory Council meeting, Kauffman said he decided against attending the meeting after learning it would involve questions about Stockton development proposals and the city's general plan update process.

So Kauffman sent three consultants from Montgomery Watson Harza, a Sacramento-based firm operating the district's Farmington Water Recharge Program, to discuss the $33.5 million project designed to spread water on private property and help prevent salt moving east from the Delta to eastern San Joaquin County.

At least three residents at Tuesday's meeting asked a pointed question - Will the Farmington program's success be thwarted by Stockton developers drilling several wells to serve what could be thousands of future homes?

The Sacramento-based consultants had no answers.

Kauffman said he told MAC chairman Bill Fields that any questions about how developers may affect Stockton's and Morada's water supply will be addressed only at Stockton East board meetings, Kauffman said.

"We wanted to keep this our forum and not the Municipal Advisory Council's," Kauffman said. "All we wanted to do (Tuesday) is talk about the Farmington project."

So Kauffman watched "Spiderman 2" at Lodi Stadium 12 while his consultants were in Morada describing the Farmington program.

The program involves leasing 25 to 30 parcels totaling about 1,200 acres south of the Mokelumne River generally between Highway 99 and Jack Tone Road.

Stockton East, in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will flood selected parcels with water so it can penetrate into the groundwater basin.

Stockton East is an independent water district that is not part of Stockton's city government. Morada, an unincorporated area outside the Stockton city limits, is within the water district's boundaries.

Fields told residents at Tuesday's MAC meeting that they need to attend Stockton East water meetings to find out if they can help Morada residents fight developers and the city of Stockton, which Moradans say is catering to developers.

"I think we need to go there and make ourselves heard," Fields said. "Make an issue of it. It is an issue, for God's sake."

The MAC and the Morada Area Association, a homeowners group, are fighting two major development proposals - Cannery Park on the west side of Highway 99 near Morada, and Empire Land, a 2,000-home subdivision proposal south of Foppiano Lane.

In an interview last week, Stockton attorney Mike Hakeem, representing the Cannery Park development, said he understands Morada residents' concerns about water supply, but the development would use about half of what an actual cannery at the same location once used.

Hakeem added that Cannery Park, a 448-acre project that calls for 1,300 homes and a light-industrial business park southwest of Highway 99 and Eight Mile Road, is part of Stockton's 1990 general plan, so it's not really a new proposal.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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