Concerns over the future water supply for Marina Coast Water District spurred three lawsuits in early March.
On March 5, Marina Coast sued Monterey County for approving a well permit Sept. 8, 2017, in the deep aquifer – a finite, ancient water supply – in Armstrong Ranch, just north of city limits.
The well is among of handful of new wells that have been approved in Armstrong Ranch in recent years, but the lawsuit, which argues the well approval should have required environmental review, is the first time Marina Coast has taken legal action as a result.
“We weren’t notified, and we should have been,” Marina Coast General Manager Keith Van Der Maaten says. “It’s kind of stunning to not even know about it.”
Marina Coast has long been concerned about protecting groundwater at Armstrong Ranch, and contends the well violates a 1996 agreement with Monterey County and other parties – including the Armstrong family – that was intended to protect Marina Coast’s groundwater resources in the area.
“In exchange, Marina Coast voluntarily limited pumping in other areas,” Van Der Maaten says.
In the other two lawsuits, both filed March 9 in Monterey County Superior Court, Marina Coast is the defendant. Land-use watchdogs Keep Fort Ord Wild and Landwatch are suing the district over its planned annexation of parts of Fort Ord, arguing that the expansion requires an environmental review.
“Every new [water] connection puts the water supply of current Marina and Fort Ord customers at increasing risk,” Michael Salerno, a Keep Fort Ord Wild spokesman, said in a statement.
Seawater intrusion continues to advance in the Salinas Valley, fouling wells, and the lawsuits argue that by supplying further development in the former Fort Ord with water, Marina Coast would further exacerbate seawater intrusion.
Marina Coast’s proposed annexation is for areas already served by the district, but where residents can’t vote in Marina Coast’s elections. “We’re basically moving a line on the map that allows people to vote,” Van Der Maaten says. “[Keep Fort Ord Wild and Landwatch’s] concern over the deep aquifer and other aquifers is our concern too.”