As a planning commissioner, I know one of the most important things that a governmental agency can do is to ensure public engagement. The Sacramento Central Groundwater Authority (SCWA) has failed; showing a lack of process.

A public hearing notice was recently received by residents with private domestic wells. This notice (Public Hearing On Proposed Property-Related Fees, June 22) has many well owners scratching their heads, wondering what this hearing is all about.

This notice was the first communication wells owners have received from this agency. The notice appears to be a “cart before the horse, take it or leave it” proposition.

There are two very different fee options presented, one much more expensive than the other. The fees that well owners are being asked to accept don’t really tell us what we’re getting in terms of water security, well security or project cost. Is one option really less expensive than the other? There simply isn’t enough information to make a decision.

In other words, what happens if the sustainable water level is set too low and wells go dry? How will the water level be maintained? Who pays for deepening a well that goes dry due to a low sustainability level? Or the water level lowers due to over drafting or mismanagement? What is the total cost of the sustainability program? How/when/by how much will fees be raised? The requirement of only allowing oral/written comments to be submitted in-person or having U.S. Mail opposition/comments to be considered, given the current COVID-19 situation, limits public input. There is no reason that electronic comments and fee protests shouldn’t be considered.

As well owners, we depend on our wells for domestic use. I would advise folks to withhold agreeing to any fee schedule without answers to these questions.

Before the June 22 fee hearing, do some research or contact one of the two rural community associations. A Zoom workshop is scheduled on May 25 for AgRes well owners. You will then have a chance to ask questions and make their opinions known.

The first of the two links below will provide the agenda and purpose for the workshop and second will allow you to register:

http://sasbgroundwater.org/assets/pdf/052521/20210525_AgRes-ShallowWellOwner_PublicMeeting_Agenda.pdf

https://stantec.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAoc--vqTouGdUpGtYPKbjUKxZquv-wuDfi

George Murphey is the chair of the Elk Grove Planning Commission.