MENDOCINO Co, CA, 4/30/23 — A drought emergency declaration in place over the past two years was lifted in the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. “Current conditions are not beyond the control of the services, personnel equipment and facilities of the county” after a stormy winter and spring helped replenish local water reserves, the resolution states.
The board voted unanimously to approve the item as part of this week’s consent calendar. Governor Gavin Newsom lifted some drought provisions, such as emergency water deliveries, around the state last month. The measure maintained the ban on wasteful water uses like ornamental lawns and preserved emergency orders focused on groundwater supply, among other responses to drought.
Planning and Building Director Julia Krog commented before the board on Tuesday that Ordinance 4494, an urgency measure allowing temporary installation and use of water tanks, would now no longer be in effect with the lifting of the drought emergency. The urgency ordinance had reduced standards around water tank installation.
“This starts a 30-day clock during which anyone who made use of the urgency ordinance will need to apply for appropriate permits to retain those improvements [to their water storage],” she explained.
Per the ordinance, use of temporary water tanks must cease after the emergency’s end.
“Within 30 days … temporary water tanks must either be removed and the site restored to its prior condition or the resident or business must apply for and diligently pursue retention of these modifications on a permanent basis, subject to all required discretionary review and zoning requirements, including setbacks,” the urgency ordinance detailed.
5th District Supervisor Ted Williams expressed a desire to retain these provisions and have the ordinance return at a future meeting, though, and other board members appeared to be in agreement.
“I think the board may want to consider making those changes permanent,” Williams said. “The idea that we’re regulating these 5,000-gallon tanks when we can barely pave our roads or properly fund public safety, it’s maybe misaligned with our priorities, and maybe an opportunity to streamline. … The issue of water storage is critical. It’s something that’s not going to go away.”
The Clerk of the Board did not respond to a request for comment on whether this ordinance will appear on a future agenda by the time of publication.
While there is no local drought emergency today, California is known for its volatile climate, and going forward scientists project “a higher likelihood of extreme wet years and extreme dry years” on the North Coast.
As 3rd District Supervisor John Haschak said, “We’re not out of this cycle of drought.”
Note: Kate Fishman covers the environment & natural resources for The Mendocino Voice in partnership with a Report For America. Her position is funded by the Community Foundation of Mendocino, Report for America, & our readers. You can support Fishman’s work with a tax-deductible donation here or by emailing [email protected]. Contact her at KFishman@mendovoice.com or at (707) 234-7735. The Voice maintains editorial control and independence.