File photo of Lake Mendocino
photo credit: California Department of Water Resources
Digging a new well in some parts of Sonoma County may soon become a more expensive and lengthy process.  All new wells would be metered and additional scrutiny will fall on applications for digging a new well near the Russian River and several other streams. The price of a well permit is also expected to more than double in many areas. 
That's the gist of proposed revisions announced Monday to the county's well ordinance, being pushed in response to an environmental lawsuit. The case, which is still ongoing, accuses local officials of ignoring cumulative impacts of groundwater pumping. 
The lawsuit was filed by California Coast Keeper. It seeks state intervention, arguing that an abundance of groundwater wells are depleting levels in the Russian River.
Bradley Dunn of Permit Sonoma said only about a third of well permit applications should be impacted by the policy.
"The Board of Supervisors is considering this action, which is really driven in part by a 2018 decision by the California court of appeals that found that state and counties have a public trust responsibility, and must include consideration of impacts to public trust resources when making groundwater decisions that could harm a navigable waterway."
The proposed rules would cover the length of the Russian River, along with parts of Estero Americano, Salmon and Sonoma Creeks and the Gualala and Petaluma Rivers.
Residential wells drawing two acre feet or less each year will not be subject to additional scrutiny.
Those intending to pump more than that from a site near a navigable waterway will have to produce research showing the well won't impact the river. Or how those impacts can be reduced or eliminated.
County officials estimate the additional review would tack nearly fourteen hundred dollars on to the cost of a permit, currently running six hundred twenty five to seven hundred and fifty dollars.
Any ruling could be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.
The proposed ordinance is scheduled to be heard August 9th.
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