|Casino water talks under way
Engineers, local land owners discussing impact of 600-foot wells casino will dig
About the best you can say at this point, is a team of engineers and lawyers from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (FIGR) are in conference with engineers and lawyers from the 225 private well owners living within a mile and a half circle of the tribal casino. The discussions are about setting up a monitoring system to measure the impact of two 600-foott wells the casino plans to build and the fate of private wells within the circle.
Urgency alert: J. Dietrich Stroeh, former head of the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD), and a property owner on Wilfred Avenue, said “I’m six-tenths of a mile away from the casino.”
He calls the casino “ground zero.” Everybody calls him “Diet,” (pronounced DEET). He anticipates about “20 to 30 private wells will go dry” near ground zero. The talks underway certainly have a strong urgency flavor.
Well owners near the casino got the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to back talks with the tribe team of negotiators who admitted they could see the value of data from monitoring existing wells and matching them with the tribe’s water well plans.
A petition to the supervisors said, “We urge the Board of Supervisors to require the Graton Rancheria tribe to start monitoring existing wells within a 1.5 mile radius of the proposed casino’s wells and require them to install appropriate monitoring devices on their two deep wells (600 feet).
“The monitoring needs to start now and continue through the dry period of August, September and October when the water table is at its lowest level.” This process is underway.
Stroeh has a home with a shallow well on 9.6 acres less than a mile away from the casino. It was a former walnut orchard, now it’s mostly pasture, partially fenced, and he’s always ready to lease it out to 4-H youngsters with heifers or horses.
He admits most of the well owners are not totally aware of the problem. “They know nothing about it except they’ve got a well, turn on the faucet and water comes out. That’ll change.”
He added, “You could dig a well down to 600 feet, but it’s very costly, There are non-permeable clay layers in between, at least two of them. The water is pulled up and the water table forms a conical shape underneath to compensate. It’s a very complicated system to explain to the average well owner.”
Stroeh’s on the committee meeting with Graton Tribe engineers and lawyers.
“They’re not sure about my status because they see me as a ‘potential litigant.’ I find that funny,” he said. “There are a lot more potential litigants out there. I’m concerned about my property, naturally, but I really don’t care if the casino gets built or not. Right now, I’m skeptical about the monitoring program or future mitigations, but it’s the best alternative we have.”
Stroeh, along with other hydrologists, is curious about the five-year study the U.S. Geological
Office in Washington accomplished. It was supposed to be released for publication in October or November 2011. But for some reason, the USGS report was delayed for a full year, and Stroeh doesn’t know why. The delay, of course, led to all sorts of conspiracy theories, but he’s not a conspiracy theory fan. The report covered the entire Santa Rosa Plain and its underlying aquafer. So, in this election year, so-called conspirators can multiply with ease.
A widower two years ago, Stroeh has a valuable ally on his side now. He and former RP City Councilwoman Dawna Gallagher were married two years ago. She came aboard with a very thick background on ground water issues dating back many years when she backed the sewer rate cut approved by RP voters.
Stroeh has three daughters and seven grandchildren, was born and raised in Novato. He went to Novato and San Rafael schools and got his engineering degree from the University of Nevada Reno. His sister used to ride the NWP steam train from Novato to San Rafael back and forth for her high school classes.
His first job was with the MWWD working on the Nicasio Reservoir dam. At the age of 37, he was named director, the youngest director they ever had.
When Marin County was hit with the major drought of 1976-77, he was involved with construction of the pipeline across the San Rafael-Richmond bridge to bring East Bay water to the county.
This brought fame his way again. It’s the subject of a book, “The Man Who Made it Rain,” written by Michael McCarthy and published in 2006.
“We’re talking now about water quantity and mitigations, but not about water quality,”
he said, while enjoying a half-sandwich at Javamore coffee shop in Penngrove.
“The soil under the casino site used to have a lot diesel trucks, tractors, abandoned cars and livestock which are all contaminant sources. But that’s another subject.”