Clovis News

Fresno County considers Dry Creek water plan

A solution may be in sight for a water impasse that has divided residents in an unincorporated neighborhood north of Clovis for the past six years.

Under the plan, which is up for a vote before the Fresno County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, residents of the Dry Creek area who don't want to get stuck with the tab for a water connection could sell their connection rights to another property owner.

The plan also would cap the number of connections at 432, the current number of parcels, which officials say should ease concerns that a steady source of water will fuel development.

In addition, the plan would allow water from fire hydrants that will be required in the project to be used on fires beyond the neighborhood's borders. There are no hydrants now.

Residents of the neighborhood, which spreads about two miles north of Shepherd Avenue to the Friant-Kern Canal, roughly west of Armstrong and east of Sunnyside avenues, now get water from wells.

The community continues to be divided over the issue, with white signs hanging from fences supporting piped water and yellow signs showing where residents are opposed.

By the time an election is held later this year on whether to create a county service area funded by water connection assessments, residents will know the price per household, estimated last year at about $30,000.

Residents who sell their connection rights will need to pay off the original assessment, said Alan Weaver, Fresno County's public works and planning director.

The plan allows residents to sell their water connection to someone else, but those residents then will need to buy a connection later if their well runs dry, said Vernon Crowder, who supports piping water to his neighborhood.

But if those connections have been purchased by others in the meantime, no further connections would be available under the proposed cap, he said.

Opponents of the water pipe proposal suspect that developers will be drawn to the area -- even with the connections cap -- and could change the area's bucolic nature, said neighbor Ron Craven.

Craven, who is among the project's opponents, said longtime residents aren't worried about improving property values with a water pipe connection, and some are on fixed incomes and unable to afford the costs of a water connection assessment.

"Who is looking out for them?" Craven asked.

Last month, Fresno Irrigation District approved providing about 532 acre-feet per year for the community through a county allocation it has in a water bank. The water will be piped in from Clovis.

Gary Serrato, Fresno Irrigation District's general manager, said his agency plans to steer clear of the political battle. He said the district wants to bring water to residents -- if a majority of them vote in favor of it.