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Commercial Well Ordinance Stuck In County Counsel’s Office

I want to share with you a letter I sent to Supervisors John Haschak and Glenn McGourty regarding a draft ordinance that would regulate private sector groundwater wells whose owners sell, or plan to sell water commercially, as well as individuals or entities that transport water from these commercial groundwater wells to customers.

First I’ll give you a summary of the proposed ordinance, and then provide the letter that sets out a problem that no one was aware of.

Here are highlights of the proposed ordinance.

Under this proposed Ordinance, individuals desiring to sell water will be required, among other things, to:

• Apply for a Minor Use permit;

• Obtain a Mendocino County Business License, which must be renewed annually;

• Obtain a well permit for each proposed source well;

• Perform a hydrologic well test on the source well;

• Install a water meter on the well;

• Keep various records regarding water production and sales; and

• File various reports with the County regarding well operation and sales.

Individuals or entities engaged in transporting water for sale to customers will be required, among other things, to:

• Not transport water to a commercial cannabis operation that does not have a state license or a state provisional license and either a county permit or an application in active review by the county cannabis department.

• Not transport water from a water supplier to a separate parcel without first obtaining a Mendocino County Business License, to be renewed annually.

• Keep a tracking log of all purchases and deliveries that shall include:

Date, location, volume, of the water purchase.

Date, location, volume, of each water delivery.

The name and contact information of the person to whom the water will be delivered and the date of delivery.

The intended use of the water.

• Not transport water after 10 p.m. or before 5 a.m. unless such transport is for road work or logging operations.

These are just highlights of the two main provisions found in the draft Ordinance.

I sent the following letter on Nov. 1st to Supervisors Haschak and McGourty; it is self explanatory, and it definitely describes the problem:

Hi John and Glenn,

As you are aware, from September 2021 through July 2022, I served, along with approximately six other appointees, on a committee working under the auspices of the Board of Supervisors Ad Hoc Drought Committee comprised of the two of you.

The charge given our committee was to prepare a draft ordinance that would regulate private sector groundwater wells whose owners sell, or plan to sell water commercially, as well as individuals or entities that transport water from these commercial groundwater wells to customers.

It should be noted that the impetus for developing this ordinance occurred last year (2021) during extreme drought conditions when the local cannabis industry was in a record state of over-production, coupled also with record usage of both legal and illegal sources of water, some of which is transported by water trucks.

We all remember the public outcry surrounding those issues.

At the July 12, 2022 BOS meeting, the Board voted 4-1 to approve the draft ordinance prepared by the committee, and forward it to the Planning Commission for further review. Specifically, according to the July 12, 2022 minutes, “Upon motion by Supervisor Haschak, seconded by Supervisor Gjerde, IT IS ORDERED that the Board of Supervisors accepts the draft ordinance and forwards to the Planning Commission for review.”

A little over a week ago, I contacted Supervisor Haschak and asked him if he was aware of the status of the Planning Commission’s review of the draft ordinance. He said he had no information at all on the matter. I told John I would contact Planning Commission Chairwoman Alison Pernell and attempt to find out the status of the review. John said he would also immediately look into the situation and get back to me.

I spoke with Alison on Oct. 26 and she informed me that the draft ordinance has not been forwarded to the Commission and she had no knowledge of its status or why it had not been forwarded to the PC. She also said she would make inquiries about the matter and would get back to me.

She called me a short time later on Oct. 26 and informed me that PBS Director Julia Krog told her that the draft ordinance was in the County Counsel’s office for review which is estimated to be completed by sometime in February of 2023. A few minutes after speaking with Alison, John Haschak got back to me with the same information.

I find this turn of events to be surprising as well as unacceptable.

This County just renewed its declaration of a local emergency due to drought conditions and imminent threat of disaster in Mendocino County. Yet it appears that in instances such as this critical matter, there doesn’t seem to be any corresponding sense of urgency to get something done that is of the highest priority. This situation has not been caused by either of you, our committee, or the Planning Commission.

I’m asking for your help in breaking the logjam at the County Counsel’s office so that the draft ordinance can be expeditiously forwarded to the Planning Commission, as was the intent, I believe, of the Board’s action at the July 12 meeting.

As always, if I can be of any assistance in this matter, just let me know.

(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher,, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live:


  1. Scott Ward November 11, 2022

    The county counsel’s office is colloquially called the Black Hole by county staff.

  2. Sick of lies. November 15, 2022

    They all sit in these high-powered jobs earning tons of money but the positions are not based on brain power or functionality.

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