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Well plans put on hold

April 27, 2000

Angelique Flores

FOUNTAIN VALLEY -- Plans for the Laguna Beach County Water District to

build a well in the city were put off Tuesday after local residents

protested.

Laguna Beach County Water District's board of directors approved the

final draft of the project's environmental-impact report, but unanimously

voted not to proceed with plans until the district can address concerns

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raised at the meeting.

Fountain Valley officials and residents showed up to protest the possible

drilling of an extraction well at a Laguna-owned piece of property in the

parking lot behind Kmart on Harbor Boulevard and Lilac Avenue.

The Laguna Beach district is looking to lower water rates and create an

emergency source of water by claiming ground-water basin rights dating

back to 1926. Water for Laguna Beach is now supplied by the Metropolitan

Water District of Southern California, which imports water from the

Colorado River and Northern California.

In 1993, the Orange County Water District agreed to let Laguna Beach pump

water from a well in Huntington Beach. However, Laguna has not done so

because the water at that well is contaminated by saltwater.

By trying to drill in Fountain Valley, the district is reaffirming its

rights in the basin, said Jim Nestor, the Laguna Beach district's acting

general manager.

However, Orange County Water District officials said Laguna Beach doesn't

have any right to take water from a well in Fountain Valley.

"It's an illegal exportation of water," said Ron Wildermuth, the Orange

County Water District's spokesman. "It's a violation of state water

agreements."

Wildermuth said Laguna Beach has not paid taxes to the Orange County

Water District since the 1940s that would have helped maintain and

improve the basin.

"We worked hard to increase the yield in the basin. They didn't

contribute to the effort," he said.

The Orange County Water District isn't alone in its opposition to

Laguna's plan.

"They haven't properly addressed all the impacts the project would have

on Fountain Valley," said Ray Kromer, Fountain Valley's city manager.

The city and its residents in the Tiburon North and the Harbor Valley

homeowners associations are concerned about the noise the drilling and

the construction of a pipeline along the paved portions of Harbor

Boulevard and Edinger Avenue would bring.

"We're a very quiet complex," said Jean Kulemin, a member of the Tiburon

Homeowners Assn. "Drilling would be intolerable."

The Laguna Beach district said it would get in and out as quickly as

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