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Valley Center residents blame SDG&E project for low water supply

Posted at 5:34 PM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 21:27:34-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Residents in Valley Center say they are running out of water and blaming an SDG&E project meant to reduce fire danger.

The olive trees that line Kristen Bazata's Valley Center farm have not been watered recently - at a time they need all the H20 they can get.

“The olives take the most amount of water right now, and we can't do that with having to decide to shower versus watering the tree,” she said.

Bazata stopped watering the trees after noticing an alarming change when she turned on her own faucets.

“We have lower water pressure than we have ever had,” Bazata said.

As do many who live off Cole Grade Road in Valley Center.

In April, SDG&E began a project to underground the utility poles that line the road, as a way to reduce wildfire danger. To do that, the utility would have to maneuver under an aquifer that supplies water to many homes in the area.

A geological study estimated crews would need to clear 6,800 to 13,000 gallons of water per day to get the job done. But there was way more water than that, hampering the project. While alternatives are now being sought for the undergrounding, crews are continuing the de-watering work to maintain the integrity of the road and the two excavation pits dug for the project.

“SDG&E understands and appreciates the community’s concerns about the unexpected conditions our project encountered as we were working to relocate our transmission line underground,” said a statement from Brittany Applestein Syz, Director of Environmental Services and Sustainability for SDG&E. “As we safely demobilize operations, the two monitoring wells at the construction site have recharged to pre-construction water levels.”

Larry Schmidt, of the Valley Center Community Planning Group, said many locals depend on well-water for their homes and livelihoods. He said the SDG&E project has caused a lot of angst in the area.

“Anybody would know that there's tons and tons of water under this location, I feel like that was glossed over and they're kind of flying by the seat of their pants to come up with a solution,” he said.

SDG&E says it expects de-watering of the site to continue until Thursday, but said that date could move if safety warrants it.