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North San Joaquin and a water recharge scheme

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Posted: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 10:00 pm

This is a response to the editorial of July 26. Mr. Alex Spanos, one of the richest men in the world, made his money on Eight Mile Road - between Lodi and Stockton - buying farmland that was neither zoned, nor suitable, for homes.

The land has little flood protection and no permanent water source. Mr. Spanos made millions when he got the zoning changed. It is helpful having family and friends on the planning commission. Now Mr. Spanos has a problem: He needs our water to stop salt-water intrusion.

The North San Joaquin Water Conservation District is offering him a solution. Mr. Fred Weybret (owner of the Lodi News-Sentinel and granddaddy of NSJWCD) is offering what some might call the Spanos/Weybret Recharge Scheme, which is to dump water on the ground and assume it will go into the aquifer. Will the recharge scheme work? Maybe, but they don't care about that. They need the appearance of water, not actual water, to keep building (and selling more newspapers). The people that live there can buy bottled water.

In a recent letter to the editor, Mr. John Beckman slammed the 2003 Lodi City Council for paying $1.2 million a year (for 40 years) to buy water from the Woodbridge Irrigation District.

Wow, $48 million, and no way to use it. How dumb. Fortunately, Mr. Beckman has an idea, the SWRS plan - dump the water out by Mr. Spanos. Did Mr. Beckman forget that he was on that City Council in 2003? Did he forget he voted for the boondoggle? Can you guess who supported Mr. Beckman for his City Council bid?

NSJWCD also plans to sell excess water from the Mokelumne to support the SWRS. Great idea, except EBMUD would have a huge problem with anyone selling their water. Lodi has an elevation of 50 feet above sea level. Stockton has an elevation of 13 feet.

Mr. Weybret, if you dump that water between us, when will the water flow uphill to fill our aquifer?

Bill Fuhs


Response to Mr. Fuhs from Fred Weybret

Mr. Fuhs has enunciated a fantasy with so little factual base that it is nearly impossible to respond to.

He fails to accept the fact that San Joaquin County's water table has been dropping since the advent of widespread irrigation, long before the extensive building of recent decades. Instead he has invented - from pure imagination - a conspiracy between this newspaper and builder Alex Spanos.

Careful readers will be able to sort fact from fantasy. We have published Mr. Fuhs' rant merely in the spirit of preserving the News-Sentinel as a forum open to everyone - informed and uninformed alike.

Fred Weybret

Response to Mr. Fuhs from John Beckman

On the matter of recharging water for the city of Lodi: While serving on the Lodi City Council from 2002 to 2006, I was also the Lodi representative on the San Joaquin County Groundwater Banking Authority and on the County Water Advisory Board. In those positions I learned more than I ever wanted to know about aquifers, water storage and underground water movement. I also learned that spending $200 per acre-foot for water was a very steep price.

Looking back on my tenure as a City Council member, there are a few things I might have done differently. Voting in favor of buying the WID water for $200 per acre-foot was my biggest mistake. At the time, I argued that we were paying too much. I knew then, and I still maintain today, that WID overcharged us for the water.

But, obtaining and using the WID water is a critically important issue for the city of Lodi; especially since we have paid such a high price for the water. It is imperative that we use it immediately.

At the time I voted for buying the overpriced water, I declared my intent for how it would be used. Having personal knowledge from my work on the Groundwater Banking Authority, I knew the best use for that water was recharge. It was the best use in 2003 and it is still the best use today.

True, recharging the water will provide a benefit to farmers around Lodi and anyone who lives within a 10 mile radius of Lodi. Just because someone else may benefit, is that a good reason not to make the best and most cost-efficient use of our water? Water is a fungible commodity. If we can get our 6,000 acre-feet of water out of the ground, out of the Mokelumne or from another source, it doesn't matter as long as we get our 6,000 acre-feet. Recharging the WID water is the best and most cost effective use.

John Beckman

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