Ordinance Amending Chapter 25B Of The Sonoma County Code To Address Evaluation Of Impacts To Public Trust Resources For Proposed New Water Supply Wells, To Specify Public Trust Review Area And Exemptions, To Add, Delete, Or Modify Definitions, To Add A Well Metering Requirement, To Make Other Miscellaneous And Technical Correction, And To Set An At-Cost Fee For Discretionary Well Permit Applications The proposed ordinance provides a framework to guide the County's consideration of impacts to public trust resources when permitting new water supply wells that could harm a navigable waterway, including specification of a public trust review area and exemptions from discretionary public trust review. It adds, deletes, or modifies certain definitions, and makes other related and technical changes. "Public trust resources" are waterways the government is obligated to hold in trust pursuant to the public trust doctrine for the benefit of the public for purposes of commerce, navigation, recreation, fishing, and preservation of wildlife habitat and natural resources. The "public trust doctrine" is a common law legal doctrine, reflected in Article X, section 4 of the California Constitution, that continues to develop and evolve through published judicial decisions. The 2018 decision by the California Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Environmental Law Foundation vs. State Water
Resources Control Board (ELF) (26 Cal. App. 5th 844) found that public trust responsibility of the state and counties extends to consideration of impacts to public trust resources when making groundwater decisions that could harm a navigable waterway. In response to such case law, staff has developed proposed ordinance amendments to guide the County's exercise of its public trust responsibility to consider impacts to public trust resources when issuing groundwater well permits that could cause harm to public trust resources in interconnected navigable surface waters. The proposed ordinance was informed by recommendations from technical
and policy working groups convened by the Director of the Permit and Resource Management Department.