Menlo Park residents question country club well

Residents ask city whether public really benefits

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.

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Like this comment
Posted by holey water
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 7, 2011 at 10:56 am

Why not the Menlo Prez church grounds for a well for Sharon Hts. CC?
Some of the church elders are SHCC members, no?
Could be sited in the center of the property as part of the Menlo Prez campus redevelopment, and even have an attractive fountain, pond, etc.
A Wishing Well!

Like this comment
Posted by Really, a well? Really?
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 7, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Taking a precious natural resource and giving it to a private country club for the price of a pipeline stinks. Why doesn't the city just sink wells in the schools and parks to water the schools and parks? Save money, use less Hetch Hetchy water, and let the country club pay for what it uses... Let's put this in perspective: in 2008, the country club used the same amount of water as almost 1/6th of the population of the entire city. This is bad policy, bad business, and bad politics.

Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth H
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 7, 2011 at 9:09 pm

What really bothers me about the meeting is that the residents were given a choice of 'here or there,' when NO WELL is what everybody said was their preference. Hey, City of Menlo Park, are you listening? Nobody wants the country club to have free water, it isn't a question of here or there, we don't want it ANYWHERE!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Central Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 11, 2011 at 6:52 pm

I am curious what the City Council and staff have calculated as the cost savings to the city, residents and community, by drilling a well and diverting 100% of the well water for community benefit (watering parks, purifying for drinking, etc.).

...and expect that the cost savings would be substantial, in particular when the specific cost of avoiding 4 miles of pipeline are considered (plus the visual benefit by avoiding 4 miles of paved trenchline in our streets).

Does anyone have a link or copy of this report?

Which city staff members are responsible for this project (for that matter, which city council members asked that the project be studied)?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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