Issues & Positions
Agricultural Water - North Livermore Valley
The authors of County Measure D (2000) understood that there was potentially so much money to be made by land speculators and developers in the urbanization of the unincorporated areas surrounding Livermore that efforts to undermine and overturn it and the subsequent Livermore Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) Initiative would continue as long as there was any possibility of success. Therefore, the initiatives endeavored to establish an agricultural buffer around the UGB's, particularly in North Livermore. These lands would be protected in perpetuity by conservation easements granted by the landowners in exchange for being able to split their large parcels into 20 acre pieces, with one residence on a two-acre building envelope and intensive (irrigated) agriculture (orchards, specialty crops, vineyards, etc.) on the rest. These would be similar to the agricultural parcels that were created in South Livermore. In order for this to be worthwhile for the original property owner and the ultimate purchaser, the agriculture had to be financially feasible. This required an identified, sustainable supply of irrigation water, and that requirement was a condition of subdivision.
In addition to the 20 acre possibility, there was recognition early on that making water available to larger parcels would greatly increase their value by enabling the growing of high value specialty crops for sale to local quality restaurants, farmerís markets and high-end specialty food stores. This could also be true in the case of vineyards, and help attain the critical mass of production capacity of premium wine required to make the Livermore Valley a major wine region.
The added value of agriculture coupled with strategically placed easements would make urbanization infeasible, but it depended on whether or not this type of agriculture would work in North Livermore.
According to the 2005 Tri-Valley Business Councilís Working Landscape Plan and supporting studies (over a period of more than four years), the climate, soil and market conditions exist for certain types of specialty crops (including vineyards) to make North Livermore agriculture viable. The primary constraint to cultivated agriculture in North Livermore is a reliable, cost-effective water source and delivery system for irrigation.
The City of Livermore is considering a bond issue to secure agricultural water entitlements for up to 10,000 acre-feet and possibly help with the delivery system to a point near the freeway. The cost of the delivery system from there to the end users and the actual cost of the delivered water would be born by the users, possibly with a public subsidy and or credit for easements in exchange for lower rates.
FOL supports bringing agricultural water to North Livermore Valley, and this proposed bond issue is an excellent way to make it happen. The bond issue would require a two-thirds approval by the voters of Livermore, but as currently contemplated would result in only a modest increase to property tax bills. It would lock in current costs for the entitlements, enabling the city to sell them at a profit in the future if the project did not come to fruition.
Securing agricultural water for North Livermore Valley sends an important message to the agricultural community as well as to anyone desiring to adopt an agricultural lifestyle. It assures them that water will be there and that the community supports agriculture. This is the down payment on the dream of keeping North Livermore Valley open and productive with crops and rangeland rather than rooftops from ridge-line to ridge-line.