Hearing on groundwater pumping permit continued

June 19, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

The only things standing between the Allegretti brothers and the permit they want to pump more groundwater are the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the Sierra Club.

Michael and Joe Allegretti, both of Chatsworth, say they just want to farm their land just south of Highway 78 in northwest Imperial County. They say they can't afford to pay for pipes to bring Imperial Irrigation District water to their land.

The Sierra Club and the federal and state government agencies say the request to pump more groundwater needs to go through an environmental review process. They also want more time to look at documentation the Allegrettis say support their case for the permit.


The county Board of Supervisors heard both sides at a public hearing Tuesday. With no board comment or discussion, the supervisors unanimously decided to continue the public hearing to 10 a.m. July 2.

The BLM wants more time to find out if the Allegretti Farm uses the same underground water supply as adjacent bureau land, BLM natural resources specialist Chris Knauf said.

The bureau land is an area of critical environmental concern for aquatic wildlife such as the endangered desert pupfish.

Knauf said he would like to work on the environmental process with the county. He would also like to have access to all the documentation referenced in the permitting process.

Sandy Vissman, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Carlsbad office, echoed Knauf, saying the service also wants to see the documentation and is concerned about having enough water for the desert pupfish.

If the permit is approved, the groundwater would be pumped from the San Felipe Creek drainage to the Allegretti Farm south of Highway 78.

"All of these things are being brought up again and again and again. I'm not sure how many hoops we have to jump through to get this permit approved," Joe Allegretti said.

The Allegrettis' original groundwater pumping permit was approved seven years ago. The new permit would increase the amount of groundwater pumped.

The Sierra Club's Edie Harmon of Ocotillo said the county should have groundwater monitoring data since 1997, when the last report was updated.

Without groundwater usage data, decisions on permit applications to increase pumping can't be based on facts. The board can't make a decision without more input, Harmon said.

"That's the purpose of an environmental report," she said.

Harmon also said the county ordinance is clear the planning commission is the decision-making body that should be deciding the permit's approval, not the Board of Supervisors.

"The county needs to look at its ordinances to see whether they are going to be applied equally and the procedures are followed equally countywide.

"What kind of message are you giving to the public? Do you have one set of ordinances for corporate occupants and one set applied to the public?" she asked the board.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

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