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Residents oppose water merchant's plan to pump

Agua Dulce man wants to sell 40,000 gallons a day from Mint Canyon aquifer

Posted: February 2, 2009 10:08 p.m.
Updated: February 3, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a Conditional Use Permit today granting a tireless Agua Dulce water merchant permission to pump and sell 40,000 gallons a day.

Some Sleepy Valley residents, on Sierra Highway in Agua Dulce, representing about 70 people living in the area, are going to urge the board to decline the application.

"We firmly believe this guy will pump us dry," said Laurie Jenkins, president of the Sleepy Valley Water Company representing the thirsty residents of a tiny unincorporated area of Agua Dulce.

The "guy" she is referring to is Roy Ramey, who runs the Rainmaker Water Services company, recognizable to most in Sleepy Valley as the diligent hauler of water who regularly sports a straw hat and overalls.

"He is going to run us out of water," Jenkins said, and to that end, representatives of the Sleepy Valley Water Company will be on hand at today's board meeting in Los Angeles.

No phone number for Ramey appeared on any of more than a dozen planning and county documents.
Two addresses given for his business and his home in Agua Dulce include no published phone numbers.

Ramey wants permission to run his water distribution company on 7.67 acres next to Sleepy Valley on Sierra Highway between Sierra Vallejo Road and Steele Avenue - upstream from Sleepy Valley.

He wants to pump more than 40,000 gallons of water a day and sell it to long-standing residents of nearby Tick Canyon.

To that end, he wants the board's permission to use an existing well and pump house on his property, two 10,000-gallon water storage tanks and three 3,800-gallon tanker trucks to haul the water.

The groundwater he pumps is from the Mint Canyon aquifer.

"Our office works closely with the (Sleepy Valley) community to ensure their needs are met and that any issues have been addressed," said Tony Bell, spokesman for Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. "The actions the board approves contains the conditions necessary to address their concerns."

The residents of Sleepy Valley, who live just 1,320 feet downhill from Ramey's well, described themselves more as "Thirsty Valley" residents over the last four years and more particularly since California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought in June.

On Mar. 19, they voiced their opposition at a similar Regional Planning Commission Hearing in which it was noted in the minutes as "concerns that granting the permit would jeopardize the water supply to other users of the aquifer."

The hearing followed several debates that began in 2005 when it was noted by the commission that the applicant was missing technical information from the Department of Health Services.

At the midway point in ongoing public debates over water distribution in Sleepy Valley was "an overflow report" prepared by Charles Nestle of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, which addressed the issue of water supply directly.

In summing up Nestle's report, Bruce W. McClendon, then director of planning at the Department of Regional Planning, said the report suggests that when the water level in the Ramey's well falls below 55 feet that pumping should stop to ensure that Sleepy Valley's supply of water is protected.

Sleepy Valley residents point to the ongoing statewide drought as indications the area is not experiencing normal rainfall conditions.

Just over two months ago, plunging drought-critical water levels forced officials at the Santa Clarita Water Division to shut down a sputtering major well in the east end of the valley.

In November, water officials reported pumping pockets of air out of the Lost Canyon well where Sand Canyon Road meets the Santa Clara River.

At the time, Mauricio E. Guardado Jr., retail manager of the Santa Clarita Water Division, likened the incident to a straw sucking up the last few drops of a milk shake.

He shut the well down, "to prevent an overdraft, because we can't deplete the resource. We want to be able to sustain the appropriate water supply for the future."

The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. today at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration at 500 West Temple Street, in Los Angeles.


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