Tonight: Golf club well proposal resurfaces in Menlo Park


Two years after the idea first came before Menlo Park's environmental quality commissioners, the panel will review a proposal to allow a private club to drill an irrigation well in a city park on Wednesday, March 26.

The Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club wants to build the well to draw from a public aquifer to water its golf course. The club now uses more than 60 million gallons of potable water per year, purchased from the Menlo Park Municipal Water District. The district in turn pulls all of its supply from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir.

Menlo Park may find the idea appealing because, according to city staff, the well could also irrigate Nealon, Jack Lyle, and Sharon parks, along with La Entrada School, thereby reducing the city's demand for Hetch Hetchy water by 13 million gallons a year and saving approximately $68,000 a year. In addition, the club has offered to pay for construction of the well, with an estimated price of $4 million, as well as for ongoing operations and maintenance costs.

"As the state continues to experience growth, more pressure may be placed on the Hetch Hetchy water system, and by using a diverse portfolio of water sources, the city can alleviate regional pressure while still securing adequate water supplies for residents and businesses," staff wrote in its report to the commission.

But residents belonging to a group called "Nealon Neighbors" don't see any appeal at all. In a letter sent last fall, the group asked the city to "shut down this project once and for all." While the well clearly benefits the country club, they said, how does it help the public?

The group fears the depletion of a natural resource, and opposes the potential construction of a well in Nealon Park, which does not allow private uses without conditional permits. Another possible site on the short list -- Jack Lyle Park -- wouldn't require a permit, but still leaves other concerns. Members question whether the plan really reduces water use in the first place, or merely transfers the source.

"Not one drop of water is saved," said Nealon Neighbors organizer Elizabeth Houck.

Both the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Environmental Quality Commission have expressed reservations in the past about the potential public-private partnership.

In 2012, environmental quality commissioners unanimously recommended not going forward with any specific proposals regarding ground water use, including cost, siting, and other considerations, until the city developed a plan for using Menlo Park's graywater, and clarified long-term groundwater rights with the county.

As of now, the graywater plan and water rights issues remain unresolved. San Mateo County issues permits to drill wells, but maintains no oversight of regional groundwater management beyond that.

Ultimately the decision lies in the hands of the City Council, which will make the final call on whether to pursue the golf club partnership.

Tonight's Environmental Quality Commission meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the council conference room, located in the Civic Center at 701 Laurel St.

Click here to review the agenda and associated staff reports.


Like this comment
Posted by Bill Grove
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 26, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Our aquifers are not a free resource - as they are depleted, salt water from the bay seeps into them, and we face potential land sinkage. This is the tragedy of the commons. Conservation in this time of drought and climate change needs to be our first response. Reuse of gray water for landscaping including golf courses should be encouraged.

Like this comment
Posted by janet
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Mar 26, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Don't deplete the aquifer. Find a way to use gray water.

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Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 26, 2014 at 12:52 pm

This is nothing more than a water grab by the country club.

This project is against Menlo Park's own Urban Water Management Plan.

This project is for no other reason than to allow more water for Massive Development.

Not one drop of water is saved.

Country Club will save approx. $600,000. a year for water while raping a natural resource.

City Staff is ignoring Neighborhood and Residents opposition to this project, rather than being their advocate.

NO cost benefit analysis has been done to see what placing smaller wells in the parks and school to water ONLY the parks and schools would save the City.

This project is an abomination and should be stopped immediately!

Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 27, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Water is a complicated issue and last night the Environmental Quality Commission not only understood many aspects of water use, management, distribution, conservation, and development impacts on water supplies, but were able to wade through graphs, charts, and the many details and resident concerns that came before you.

In addition, I applaud the EQC's decision to protect a precious natural resource as well as Open Space and Conservation District and City Parks by their strongly worded recommendation to the Menlo Park City Council to cease all work on the potential well project and MOU with the private Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club. Not to mention the time and money Staff has spent on this project.

Residents also appreciated including overwhelming resident objection to the project and the principle of putting a private well in a public part to take a natural resource benefiting few but the Country Club. Residents felt our objections were being ignored, omitted, and dismissed in this process.

It is my hope that the Staff will investigate putting smaller individual wells in the parks to water only the parks. I believe the cost benefit analysis of such a scheme should be studied as an alternative to Hetch Hetchy use, and that the money saved should be put toward continued water conservation incentives and or adjudication of the aquifer in San Mateo County.

Like this comment
Posted by Old MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Time to invest in redistributing Menlo Park's treated wastewater. Instead of flushing to the bay, it may be time to invest in piping the water to parks (and golf courses) for irrigation.

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

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