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Water bank idea draws fire from opponents in Ripon
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RIPON – It’s been almost a decade since Charles Harris first approached the Ripon City Council with the idea of using a 23-acre parcel he owns as a water bank and recharge station to replenish the groundwater supply in the area outside of Ripon’s city limits.

When he brought the same plans back last week to the council – this time listed on the agenda as a land donation for a water bank – not everyone was in agreement that the project was a great idea.

San Joaquin Farm Bureau Representative Katie Patterson minced no words when she informed the council that the land that would be converted for such use would take away from vital agricultural land that she believed was still under the control of the Williamson Act. The Williamson Act is a land conservation agreement that farmers can enter into with the county in order to pay a reduction in property assessment as long as the land is used for agriculture.

Harris audibly denied this from the crowd as he indicated the property is currently in the process of cancelling Williamson Act protection.

Even with the legal ramifications aside – many of which were pointed out by Mayor Chuck Winn to include the undertaking of an Environmental Impact Report, a trip to the Local Annexation Formation Commission to become a part of the city, and an evaluation of the best use of the land – some of those who spoke in opposition had a variety of different reasons to ensure that the pond is never brought to fruition.

Joey Lewis – who lives nearby where the pond is being proposed – said that there could be as many as 18 family wells that would be directly affected by the flow of water as it is absorbed into the ground and filtered through the aquifers.

The nature of the soil in the immediate area that makes it so ripe for growing, Lewis said, would also make it impractical as a water basin and would instead just make it a recharging pond – pointing out locations with compacted soil like Oakdale and Collegeville would be much better locations.

While neighbor and multi-generational farmer Dave Phippen said that the donation to the City of Ripon was noble in its intent, the detrimental effects of removing such a large amount of soil from the area would be something that would stretch beyond just the boundaries of the project.
Phippen said there are avenues already in place to research and determine whether projects like these are fit or feasible.

“Just like those of us in the county respect what you guys do here in the city, we ask that those of you here in the city respect what we’d like to see in the county,” Phippen said.

To contact Jason Campbell e-mail, or call (209) 249-3544.