By Barbra Wood
Special to the Almanac
Menlo Park residents invited to give the city feedback on their preferred spot for an irrigation well requested by the Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club had little to say about the location, but had lots of questions about the project at a meeting on Thursday (Nov. 4).
The club has offered to pay for drilling the well and installing a pipeline so they will have plenty of water for the golf course. According to city staff, Menlo Park could save as much as $68,000 a year by using the well water to irrigate Nealon Park, Jack Lyle Park and Sharon Park, plus another $13,000 by not paying wholesale for the water now used by the country club. It would also allow more than 60 million gallons of drinking water that now keeps landscaping alive to be used for other purposes.
But neighbors who live near the two parks see it differently.
Two sites proposed for the well were criticized as being too close to homes, so the city returned with six other sites farther away. The amount of space needed for the well would be between 10- by 15-feet and 10- by 30-feet according to Matt Oscamou, Menlo Park's interim engineering services manager. It would be surrounded by landscaping and the pump would be located nearly 600 feet underground.
At the meeting Mr. Oscamou offered to take the two potential sites nearest to homes in Nealon Park off the table.
Residents at the meeting questioned whether the project really had much public benefit, as 60 million gallons of water would go to the country club and only about 8 million gallons would be used by the city.
Mr. Oscamou said the city has promised to try to find ways to use local water resources such as groundwater or recycled water. The proposed pipeline could be designed so that if a source of recycled water became available in the future, homeowners could tap into the pipeline and use the water for their own landscaping, he said.
Some of those at the meeting asked why all the proposed well sites are in parks. Mr. Oscamou said that the city looked at other properties, but none had both available underground water and access where the water could easily be used for the city's irrigation.
Many of the neighbors' questions don't yet have answers because it is too early in the process, Mr. Oscamou said. Putting the well in a city park would first have to be approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission and then the City Council. Once given the go-ahead by the council, the city would negotiate with the country club, design the project and undertake any required environmental review.
That review would address issues such as noise and traffic caused by the construction process and any noise associated with the well.
A group of residents has hired environmental attorney Craig Breon to scrutinize the plan and request documents under the public records act.