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Supervisors allow water hauler to uncork well

Father, son business will pump 40,000 gallons per day

Posted: February 3, 2009 9:45 p.m.
Updated: February 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.

A father and his son are thrilled to get back to pumping and hauling water from their Agua Dulce well today, but neighboring water company officials fear their wells will run dry.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a permit Tuesday allowing Rainmaker Water Haulers to pump more than 40,000 gallons a day from a well near Mint Canyon.

"We are very happy," said Chris Ramey, who owns Rainmaker with his father Roy. "We have had to purchase our water from other sources. We couldn't be allowed to use our own well."

Tuesday's decision allows Ramey's father-and-son business, Rainmaker Water Haulers, to use that well on 7.67 acres next to Sleepy Valley on Sierra Highway between Sierra Vallejo Road and Steele Avenue.

And, while the decision uncorks a dormant well, it also caps four years of discussion over water availability near the tiny unincorporated area of Sleepy Valley that pitted Ramey and his father, Roy, against the Sleepy Valley Water Company that represents about 70 residents.

The Sleepy Valley Water Company claims a Conditional Use Permit issued by the county's Department of Regional Planning Department would perilously drop the water table.

"Our feeling is that we're going to go dry again," said Katherine M. Sloan, spokeswoman for the Sleepy Valley Water Company and only person to voice a concern about water availability at the hearing Tuesday.

Mark Child, supervisor of regional planning for the county, said the board's decision Tuesday was the final word in the debate.

"It isn't appeal-able," he said.

"The question in our review was, 'Would the property operators of the water-hauling business affect the water supply of Sleepy Valley and the aquifer?'" he said.

The short answer for all involved is 'No.'

The bottom line for Ramey is 55 feet - that's the maximum depth at which he is allowed to pump water.

The decision enables the Rameys to restart a well that's been sitting idle for four years.

It will take the Rameys a couple of months to bring the well up to speed and start pumping.

"We're in the business of providing water," Chris Ramey said. "We're not going to rob Peter to pay Paul.

"We don't want the people of Sleepy Valley to go without water, or for anyone to go without water."

There's enough water to go around, he said.

"If they put all the time and energy and money they've spent fighting us into focusing on their wells, they wouldn't have a water problem," he said.

For the past four years, the Rameys pumped water from other Agua Dulce private wells in order to meet their demand.

The board decision allows Ramey to pump upstream from Sleepy Valley and sell the water primarily to customers in Agua Dulce.

The Rameys can use the 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.

Despite the statewide drought, there's plenty of accessible underground water in Mint Canyon, Chris Ramey said.

Over the four years, the Rameys and the Sleepy Valley Water Company had hydrologists assess the amount of underground water in Mint Canyon.

"Blueline Creek (in Mint Canyon) has water that flows to the surface. It runs above ground for about 100 yards and goes back underground," he said, noting that the water level varies and even in this time of drought his well hits water 15 feet below the surface.


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