County approves Hog Island water well

08/14/2014

Hog Island Oyster Company cleared a major hurdle in its efforts to obtain a new water supply when the county zoning administrator approved its application for coastal permit on July 31 to dig a well in Marshall. (No appeals to the decision were filed to the planning commission by the Aug. 7 deadline, according to county planner Lorene Jackson.) Hog Island’s current well is subject to regular saltwater intrusion from the bay, and attempts to dig a new well on its own property over the past 14 years have proved futile. The oyster company received permission from a landowner to dig a well on a property just south of Marshall-Petaluma Road, and a year and a half ago applied for a coastal permit for the project.  But the property also has other wells used by neighbors—including the Marshall Aqua Improvement Forum, a private water company that serves 16 households—feared their own water supply might suffer if Hog Island started drawing from the aquifer, too. The company enlisted a geologist to prove there would be no effect, but to resolve ongoing disagreements, it entered into a formal agreement with MAIF in June. That contract subjects the company to a 3,000-gallon daily cap on water use and also requires Hog Island to monitor its water use for five years, to determine if the new well is affecting either the quality or quantity of MAIF’s well. (The new well will also feed a local fire hydrant; any water used by the fire department won’t count toward the cap.) If both parties agree there is no impact, they could raise or eliminate the cap, though the company would continue monitoring to ensure no one goes thirsty. At the hearing, George Clyde, speaking on behalf of the East Shore Planning Group, said the MAIF stipulations should be included in Hog Island’s coastal permit, since the county should be the one protecting homeowners with individual wells. To ease fears that the well could draw down water supplies, John Finger, co-owner of Hog Island, said the company would agree to a perpetual 5,000-gallon per day cap. But the zoning administrator said the county could not add stipulations in order to protect other wells on the property because many of the wells are probably illegal; even if they were to add such provisions, they would need to undertake a survey of the legality of all those wells, and remove any illegal ones they discovered.