Measure Z

Steinbeck’s “upside down river” flows to Monterey Bay

Why Measure Z?

The vast Salinas River Groundwater Basin flows northwest, following the Salinas River, and empties into Monterey Bay. Nobel Prize winning author, John Steinbeck, called it the “upside down river”. It’s the largest underground stream in the U.S. and irrigates the rich agriculture of Salinas Valley (“America’s Salad Bowl”).

San Ardo and nearby oil fields are located “upstream” in this groundwater basin. Illegal injection of wastewater by oil companies into protected aquifers puts at risk the supply water for Salinas Valley farms and cities — King City, Greenfield, Soledad, Gonzales, Salinas, Castroville, Marina, and Sand City.

For decades, Monterey County gave oil companies “blanket permits” to drill unlimited numbers of oil wells near the Salinas River, with no regulation.

In 2008, Monterey County allowed Venoco to frack and acidize oil wells in the Bradley – Hames Valley area, near the Salinas River.

After Monterey County Supervisors rejected a fracking moratorium in 2015, local residents drafted an initiative to ban fracking and limit risky oil operations. Over 230 volunteers collected 16,000 petition signatures to put Measure Z on the ballot. Measure Z won with 56% of the votes on November 8, 2016.



Measure Z Summary

    Monterey Shale Formation (


This initiative:

  1. Bans fracking, acidizing, and other risky well stimulation treatments.
    • Why: The Monterey Shale Formation underlies parts of our county and is considered the area of future oil expansion in California. In 2008, Venoco fracked and acidized 2 Bradley wells to explore for oil in the Monterey Shale. (See page 4, paragraph 3, of this report.)
  2. Bans new wastewater injection wells and wastewater ponds. It phases out existing wastewater injection wells and ponds.
  3. Bans new oil and gas wells within Monterey County.
    • Why: Expansion of oil and gas drilling is not compatible with Monterey County’s vital agriculture and tourism industries. It increases the risks to our water, health and future. Our county has enormous wind and solar energy potential which should be expanded.

This initiative does not affect Monterey County’s 1,500+ existing oil and gas wells, which may continue to operate.



Measure Z on the Ballot 



  Venoco fracking rig in Hames Valley (2010)

Measure Z Background