Corporate pumping commences as river returns to aquifer

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Groundwater pumps near Woodlake’s Bravo Lake turn on again as water is released into St. John River

By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

WOODLAKE – Residents near Bravo Lake are keeping an eye on their well depths as their corporate neighbor Bee Sweet recommences pumping after a month long hiatus.

An initial trend of round the clock pumping drew from the underground aquifer and may have caused several private wells to go dry this spring. After pumping came to an end residents could feel safe that the hemorrhaging would end. Now that the nearby St. Johns River has begun to flow, the wells that had failed before have begun to recharge.

With the river water release, Bee Sweet now feels that it is safe to pump without affecting its neighbors.

According to Woodlake City Administrator Ramon Lara, the pumps were turned back on when the river began to flow and the aquifer was being recharged almost two weeks ago. The amount that Bee Sweet is pumping is unknown and therefore it cannot be determined if the rate of pumping exceeds that of recharge.

Resident Skeeter Hudson noticed the pumps were back on, but not a change in the wells levels.

“I haven’t heard of anyone having trouble but I’m staying on top of it,” Hudson said.

Wutchumna board member and Lindsay Strathmore Irrigation District (LSID) General Manager Scott Edwards noted that he has corresponded with St. Johns River Ranch, who notified him of the pumping stoppage. Edwards confirmed that Bee Sweet who farms the land was pumping water into Bravo Lake which is owned by the Wutchumna Water Company. From the Wutchumna Water Company the water was sent down the Friant-Kern Canal to Lindsay, where LSID then sent the water to another Bee Sweet property to irrigate citrus withering in the drought.

The property along the southern bank of Bravo Lake where the water is being extracted is owned by the St. John’s River Ranch, LP which is in turn owned by Bronson Van Wyke of Tuckerman, Ark. According to Tulare County property records, Van Wyke purchased the property from Woodlake Ranch Inc. in October of 2014 along with an easement for an existing well and pumping plant. In addition Van Wyke purchased the property with a joint well and pump users agreement signed by former owners Beth Krakov and Randy Childress.

Van Wyke can be considered a major player in the agriculture industry of California, the Midwest and Mississippi Delta. In the San Joaquin Valley, he owns citrus and grapes, shipping more than 2 million cartons of citrus per year. Some of his firms customers include Cargill, Robert Mondavi and Safeway.

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