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Efforts to Protect Samara’s Water Source
ASADA Continues Struggle For Legal Ownership of Mala Noche Water Table 
Private Land Owner Says He Has Been Protecting the Water for Decades

By Arianna McKinney

The need to protect Samara and El Torito’s main water source, the Mala Noche water table located between Samara and El Torito, was one issue raised in response to the canton’s proposed regulatory plan (see article), which had the area zoned for tourism, although a technical report by the SENARA (National Service of Subterranean Waters, Irrigation and Drainage) specified that a zone of protection of natural resources should be implemented in the Municipality’s regulatory plan.

But a struggle over the important water resource has been going on for years, with two opposing players each claiming the same common goal: to protect the water.

Carlos Esquivel, president of Samara’s ASADA, the Samara’s water administration association, manifested that Samara and El Torito’s aqueducts have existed since 1977, providing water to the two communities by means of wells that draw water from the Mala Noche water table. However the ownership of the land where Samara’s well is located has been under dispute.

Who Should Own The Land?
Eduardo Arnaez, water administrator for Samara, explained that in Costa Rica the majority of water sources are in private property, although the ASADAs in many areas are fighting to gain possession of these important resources. However the legal process takes a long time. The Samara ASADA has been trying to achieve this for almost a decade now.

Arnaez recounted that the land where the water table is located was originally barren with no one appearing as the owner of the land. However, in the 1960s Pacific Lumber Company acquired the land. Later Miguel Angel Soto Gomez became the land’s owner, although ownership was never officially inscribed. It was during the time that Soto had possession of the land that an agreement was made to drill the wells that supply water to Samara and El Torito. 

Tim Coates, who represents the company Centenario Dos Mil S.A., affirmed that they bought the land in 1991. He noted that Samara’s water administration has a key to the gate so they have free access to Samara’s well and assured, “We have no development plans for that land. We’re using it as a protection for the aquifer.” For more than 20 years, he said they have been protecting the land from squatters and maintaining the forest cover, although he admitted that they haven’t really done much replanting.

The Mala Noche aquifer is located to the left of the river.
Tim Coates explained that horses are on the land as a sign of possession,
although members of the ASADA are concerned that their excrement could
contaminate the water, especially during rainy season when water filters
into the ground.
This water pump, administered by Samara's ASADA, is located inside the
property in dispute.

In 1993, Coates related that local activists promoted invasion and settlement of the land, endangering the water source where no housing or septic tanks should exist. He specified that the squatters included people from all walks of life, from lawyers and dentists to middleclass and poor people, and claimed that the group included people who are now involved with ASADA. He related that on two occasions he sought help from the public ministry and 130 police officers and succeeded in evicting the squatters. 

Arnaez confirmed Coate’s efforts to remove the squatters, but attested that no one from the ASADA was involved. In addition, he noted that the land would be inscribed to Acueductos y Alcantarillados (AyA: Aqueducts and Sewers) and the Samara ASADA would continue to administer the water but with the ability to provide “absolute protection.”

For his part, Coates expressed concern about transferring the land ownership. “We would prefer to maintain occupation of the land respectfully and we’d be willing to sign away any development rights to that land and designate it as a protection area, which is supposedly what they want,” Coates suggested. “If they truly want to protect the aquifer, then we have no conflict of interest. But we won’t put it in the hands of untrustworthy people who could negotiate and sell it.” 

Efforts to Legally Establish Ownership
For about a decade now, Samara’s ASADA has been seeking support from AyA, from the courts and even from the Attorney General of the Republic to gain legal possession of the land that, according to Esquivel, “by law and by right belongs to the ASADA.” 

Edgar Brenes Valenciano from AyA indicated “The institution (AyA) throughout a period of around 10 years, has attended and collaborated with SENARA in performing various activities related with the investigation of the Mala Noche aquifer, especially in the demarcation of the protection zone of the well that supplies the Asada of the Aqueduct of Samara.”  

Several years ago, the Agricultural Court of Santa Cruz arranged conciliation between the two parties so the case didn’t have to go to trial, but each party’s interpretation of the conciliation is different.  According to Esquivel, the judge ordered recognition of the rights of the ASADA, allowing them to inscribe the land where the water table is located. Coates, on the other hand, said the judge recommended that the ASADA negotiate with the landowners to come to an agreement to protect the aquifer, but indicated that no one from ASADA has ever contacted him to negotiate. 

Arnaez said that Coates told the judge that he would agree to respect the zone that AyA defined. It took another year for AyA to define the water table. The final step in the process in order to inscribe the land should be the appraisal, but that has proved to be an even longer process. Arnaez related that of the four appraisers that have been named by the court, only two have actually come to Samara. One came to see the land but never returned. The last appraiser actually took measurements last year but never presented the results to the lawyer. 

A New Well Needed for El Torito
Another major concern is the water supply for El Torito, which has 206 registered meters and about 2000 inhabitants, according to Maylin Rojas Ruiz, president of El Torito’s ASADA. The location of El Torito’s well is far from ideal, near the plaza and the community hall, on the edge of the Mala Noche water table where it isn’t able to draw sufficient water for the population. 

Arnaez attested that in El Torito they have to turn the water supply off at times to let the tank fill so that water can reach all the homes, and people have to collect water when it reaches their homes, knowing that it will later be turned off again. 

Rojas said that they would like to have a new well better located within the water table and that she has sent letters to Coates about the project but with no reply. Coates said that at one point he talked to the ASADA of El Torito and explained that one reason they don’t want another well on their land is to avoid another situation like the one with Samara’s ASADA in which they are trying to title the land. “We don’t want that to happen because we’re trying to protect the aquifer,” he stated. 
Coates said they proposed to ASADA drilling two wells, one of which would become property of the ASADA and the other of Centenario Dos Mil S.A. However, Rojas said the ASADA is not able to give concessions in order for a well to belong to the company. The project to drill a new well for El Torito is therefore at a standstill, and Rojas projected that without a new well, in less than two years El Torito will not have water. 

Recommendations for Protecting the Aquifer
Nezil pointed out that the Mala Noche water table is the only good, big supply of water in the area, but the balance of fresh water so close to the ocean is extremely fragile. “That is land that has to be a reserve, period,” Nezil declared, “noting that what can be done with that land should be regulated and no development should ever be allowed there.”

Reports from SENARA (pdf) has defined the protection zone of the water and classify the aquifer’s vulnerability to contamination as “extreme.” The reports also say that no urban developments or septic tanks should be allowed and that no type of garbage or contaminating fluid should be deposited there. The reports also recommend reforestation and conservation of nature, implementing protection zones in the regulatory plan of the Municipality of Nicoya, as well as fencing in the perimeter and putting up signs.
All parties seem to agree that the land must be protected to ensure the future of water in Samara and El Torito for generations to come. What is in question is the best way to do that.

Another Step in Relocating Those Who Live In Garza’s Maritime Zone

By Arianna McKinney

The presentation of the proposed regulatory plan identifies which properties within the maritime land zone (ZMT- Zona Marítima Terrestre) are inscribed as private property, which, for the municipality’s ZMT department, is an important step in the process of creating the coastal regulatory plan, organizing the maritime zone and relocating people who are inhabiting it.

Juan Carlos Oviedo Quesada, coordinator of the regulatory plan commission, estimated that about 2% of Samara Beach and 6% of Buena Vista and Garza’s beaches are inscribed as private property. The ZMT department has now conducted a census to identify the people in Garza that must be relocated and are in the process of negotiating with them; however Oviedo explained that they can’t move them until the plan is approved. 


More Regional News

Presidency Asks Representatives to Revise Law of Coastal Territories

After several members of the country’s coastal communities presented their case to the Legislative Assembly, the Presidency of the Republic convened on April 26 and with two days of extraordinary sessions remaining, to discuss in the Legislative Assembly the project of Bill Number 18.148, Law of Coastal Territory Communities.

San Jose – Nicoya Bus Fare to Increase 1335 colones

Travel to the capital will be more expensive for users of route 503 that connects San Jose with Nicoya. Currently the price per trip is 3445 ¢. However, it will go up to 4780 ¢ since the Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos (ARESEP) Public Services Regulatory Authority approved the increase on most routes of public transport sector in the country, including this trip.

Finishing the Montaña River Bridge is in the Controller’s hands

Although it was announced that the bridge over the Montaña River would be ready by the end of March, the General Controller of the Republic still hasn’t approved an increase in the budget presented by the ex-Vice Minister of Transportation and Public Works (MOPT), Maria Lorena Lopez. 

Security Vehicle Carrying More than $100,000 Flipped

Samara. On Tuesday, April 17th a little after 4 p.m. a VMA Valores security vehicle flipped while driving downhill about 2 kilometers north of Samara between the town and the gas station. The road was slick and slippery because of the rain, and apparently when the driver tried to break, the vehicle skidded and ended up on its side. 

Mel Gibson Has Not Paid Off Debt With Nicoya's Municipality

Although one of Mel Gibson's representatives visited the Municipality of Nicoya on March 30th in order to pay off property taxes, he still owes 27 million colones in unpaid taxes.

Samara Pays Homage to a Great Surfer and Friend

After burying his body in Carrillo in the morning on Thursday, April 12th, hundreds gathered on the beach in Samara in front of Choco’s Surf School at about 4:30 p.m. to pay their respects to surf instructor Jose Angel Lopez Castillo, known as “Shaggy.”

Police Apprehend Thieves with Help from Courageous Neighbor

On the evening of Tuesday, April 3rd, two thieves were detained by the tourist police of Guiones, thanks to the collaboration of a neighbor. Although a denunciation was filed with the Organism of Judicial Investigation of Nicoya, the next day the criminals were released pending trial since the 12 hours that someone can be legally held without a formal denunciation had expired. 

Urban Development Project
in Curime is Halted Due to
Possible Contamination

Nicoya's Municipalidad has halted progress on an urban development project in Curime. The main reason is the property's location, as it is adjacent to a stream that flows into the Potrero River.

Traffic Accidents Increase During “Dust Season” in Nosara

The excess of dust particles in the environment has not only affected the health of Nosara residents, but is also a determining factor when driving a vehicle as it influences visibility for drivers. 

Former Police Officer Imprisoned 16 Years After Trial

On Thursday, March 8th, Olman Perez Acevedo was arrested during a routine roadblock by the public force in Samara. A warrant was out for his arrest for a “simple homicide” that happened way back when Olman himself was working for the public force, but the case is far from simple.

New Waste Management Plan Offers a Solution to Trash Problems

A responsible and adequate waste management process continues to be an unresolved issue for Nicoya. This is evidenced by the closing of the landfill, on three different occasions, and the lack of a comprehensive vision as to how to deal with waste management in the future.

A New Home for the Healthiest Elderly in the World

With a cost of around 150 million colones ($300,000) the Centro de Atención al Anciano y Minusválido (Center of Assistance for the Elderly and Disabled) will be built in the district of Nosara, which will be located on a 1,700-square-meter piece of land, purchased in Bocas de Nosara, 50 meters east of the EBAIS.

More Time Granted for Analyzing Proposed Regulatory Plan

Many voiced opposition to how little time was given for community members to review the proposed regulatory plan for the Canton of Nicoya and submit observations, just 10 working days after the plan was presented on Saturday, February 25th, and the municipal council on Monday, March 26th agreed to allow those who submitted comments during those ten days to have an additional 45 working days to continue reviewing the plan, beginning April 9th. 

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