The Cambrian

Geotech plan hits state preserve wall

A planned testing project in a State Park preserve— designed to prove or disprove if desalination intake wells and outflow pipes would be successful there — likely will undergo more changes before work could proceed.

Testing in 2008 found three likely subterrean channels. Test wells have been drilled in two spots on the beach near the county’s Shamel Park, but the third promising location is under State Parks land at the mouth of Santa Rosa Creek.

According to representatives of the parks agency and the California Coastal Commission, it’s not known yet what those changes might be. Some suggestions being tossed around have even included using horse power — literally horses — to drag a drill rig onto the beach. Alternatively, crews might winch the rig onto the sand from a vehicle that’s off the preserve’s shore.

Those changes and others might require an extension of the commission’s Oct. 31 cut-off date for work done this year near the creek, according to Tom Luster, commission environmental scientist. He wasn’t sure such an extension would be forthcoming.

He said modifications to the so-called “geotechnical testing” project also would require further review by commission staff or, if the changes are extensive, by the commission itself.

Luster said that, during the commission’s review of the project in May, there were apparent misunderstandings about where the Santa Rosa Creek Natural Preserve’s boundary lines are. Luster said the commission’s approval of the project was based on the preserve’s western boundary being further up the creek.

Nick Franco, parks district superintendent, said he met with Army Corps representatives Aug. 10, map in hand, showing them that the protected area extends to the mean high-tide line.

In short, that means no motorized vehicles are allowed within the preserve, including in the area where the Corps’ contractor planned to drive a tractor-mounted drill rig. —Kathe Tanner