Water Bond Signed by Governor Brown

August 14, 2014

Last night, the Legislature reached agreement on a water bond, which was promptly signed by the Governor.

This bill would enact the “Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014″, which, if approved by the voters, would authorize the issuance of bonds in the amount of $7,120,000,000 pursuant to the State General Obligation Bond Law to finance a water quality, supply, and infrastructure improvement program. This bill, upon voter approval, would reallocate $425,000,000 of the unissued bonds authorized for the purposes of Propositions 1E, 13, 44, 50, 84, and 204 to finance the purposes of a water quality, supply, and infrastructure improvement program.

Total : $7.545 Billion Dollars

Assembly members voted 77-2 in favor of the measure

Senate members voted 37-0 in favor of the measure


Specific allocations of interest: 

$13 million for the Mountain Counties Overlay.

$25 million for the Sierra Nevada Conservancy

The Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and its Impacts on Regional Sustainability in the North State

July 29, 2014

On July 28, 2014, the North State Water Alliance (NSWA) founding partners submitted comments to John Laird the Secretary for Natural; Resources of the California Natural Resources Agency on the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).

Click here for the link to the two-page letter and detailed comments: NSWA-BDCP-Submittal-July 2014

The mission of the NSWA is to promote responsible statewide water solutions that protect the economy, environment and quality of life for the north state and for all Californians.  The NSWA is committed to working with our regional partners to find comprehensive statewide water solutions in California that include:

  1. Water rights and supply assurances
  2.  Increased investment in regional storage and infrastructure
  3.  Water conservation as a way of life
  4.  An operational plan for the state’s water systems to fulfill obligations to the north state


MCWRA Executive Members El Dorado Irrigation District (EID) and Placer County Water Agency (PCWA) also submit comments on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

Click the link for the EID BDCP Comment letter:  El Dorado Irrigation District BDCP Comment Letter

Click the link for the PCWA News Release:  Placer County Water Agency BDCP News Release





Protecting watersheds first step in water policy

July 13, 2014

is the title of the OP-ED from John Kingsbury, MCWRA executive director.  The State’s focus on the Delta crisis and the twin tunnels has been temporarily overshadowed by the drought. Three years of dry weather conditions, continued population growth, regulatory policies, and the lack of new water supplies has created a perfect storm.  The water districts and agencies in Mountain Counties have aggressively implemented conservation measures to ensure a reliable water supply for their ratepayers, while the Administration and Legislature struggle with finding a bi-partisan water bond with long-term solutions.   If the State is going to solve the water crisis, it must look to the headwaters as “Protecting watersheds first step in water policy”.

Link to Maven’s Notebook and the full OP-ED :  http://wp.me/p2XWwm-4VG

Trio of state water leaders centerpiece of Mountain Counties event

July 8, 2014

By Roberta Long

MCWRA writer

Pictures from the Gallery

Three of California’s top water decision-makers came to Placerville on June 6 for a joint presentation by Mountain Counties Water Resources Association (Mountain Counties) and the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Region 3. The program, “California’s Water Leaders,” was held at the Wedgewood Sequoia Mansion, and included a talk-show style conversation with the featured speakers: Mark Cowin, State Department of Water Resources director; Felicia Marcus, State Water Resources Control board chair; and Randy Fiorini, Delta Stewardship Council chair. Tom Philp, executive strategist for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, was moderator.

2014 Calif Water Leaders Event June 6  (25)Mark Cowin-State Department of Water Resources

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is responsible for managing and protecting California’s water, including operating the California State Water Project. DWR forecasts future water needs, inventories and evaluates existing water supplies, explores conservation and storage options, and supervises flood options, including emergency response to floods. It also administers more than $5 billion in bond funding for flood protection and ecosystem restoration.

Cowin, a civil engineer, has worked at DWR since 1981. He became director when Gov. Brown appointed him in 2010.

He focused his remarks on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The proposed BDCP is a 50-year plan under the California Natural Resources Agency. A major component of the BDCP is upgrading the part of the State Water Project and related system improvements that are in the Delta. DWR has ultimate authority and responsibility to manage the design and construction of any new water facilities.

The other major component is a dual comprehensive ecosystem modification plan. Under state law, a Natural Community Conservation Plan will be under the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The federal counterpart, a Habitat Conservation Plan, will be under joint authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

In general, the water agencies that contract for water from the state and federal projects are expected to pay for the costs of conveyance, and the cost of habitat restoration will be paid statewide.

The plan and its accompanying Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement are in the public comment stage, which will end July 29.

Cowin made an appeal to judge the plan for what it is. It is intended to protect endangered species in the Delta under the Endangered Species Act and stabilize deliveries. He said: If we don’t do anything and the fish populations continue to decline, we will have increasing regulations, continuing litigation and more stressors. Let’s get past the circular arguments.

He said that the BDCP provides innovative and efficient features. Elements of the plan change how water flows through the Delta. We will be able to reverse the reverse flows in the south that suck the fish into the pumps. New intakes in the north Delta will have state-of-the-art fish screens. It does involve tunnels. The amount of water exported will be tied to the populations of fish, he said.

Cowin said the BDCP will have a positive effect on the economic stability of the state. He pointed out the plan does not give a free pass to exporters. A 50-year permit does not trump the Endangered Species Act or water rights.

Especially in the Central Valley, groundwater is pumped to supplement surface water. In normal years, groundwater supplies about one-third of the total. In drought years, it averages 60 percent. “This is not sustainable,” he said. “We are not trying to stop people from using groundwater. We want to provide sustainable management by empowering local agencies to develop the tools, resources and standards with the State Water Resources Control Board as backstop.” Government needs to make an investment. We all need to put our shoulders into a combined effort, he said.

2014 Calif Water Leaders Event June 6  (27)Felicia Marcus-State Water Resources Control Board

The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) was created by the Legislature in 1967 with authority to allocate the waters of the state to achieve the optimum balance of beneficial uses and ensure the highest quality.

Chair Felicia Marcus, a lawyer, was appointed to the SWRCB by Gov. Jerry Brown in May 2012. At the time, she was serving on the Delta Stewardship Council, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her in July 2010. Her previous career stages include: Los Angeles Board of Public Works commissioner, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9 administrator, and western director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Marcus said there is a paradigm shift in water management: “It is more intelligent and integrated.” She gave as an example the Integrated Water Resources Management Program, in which water agencies coordinate planning and management of projects. She said she believes in the wisdom of locals, and that more money needs to be invested in the upper watersheds.

She said that the state and federal agencies have their place. Her job on the SWRCB is to balance all beneficiaries. “No one gets it all,” she said. We can’t continue with the rhetoric– “Is so. Is not. You’re a jerk. No, I’m not.” She said she respects action, getting things done.

We are experiencing less snowmelt and more flooding. Storage is not a “yes or no” issue. All types of storage need to be considered, and water rights need to be respected.

Marcus said the SWRCB is a water rights hearing board. The board has had to impose emergency curtailments on holders of junior water rights. A curtailment is an order to stop diverting water. She said it is a harsh system, but it is essential for public health and safety. Under the California Constitution, holders of water rights do not own the water. Their rights are usufructuary, or the right to use it. Holders of senior water rights have to use their water beneficially and not waste it, or they will lose their rights.

She would like to see voluntary compliance with the curtailments. Enforcements are unwieldy and time-intensive. But there will be some increased enforcement. “Otherwise, the board is just a paper tiger,” she said.

Marcus cited three approaches to augmenting water supply in the state: recycling, conservation and stormwater. She said southern California has a “great opportunity” to increase local water supplies by re-using stormwater, and decrease reliance on imported water.

2014 Calif Water Leaders Event June 6  (31)Randy Fiorini-Delta Stewardship Council

The Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) is an independent state agency. It was created by the Legislature in 2009 to develop a comprehensive long-term management plan for the Delta. Randy Fiorini said he has been fulltime as chair only since March. (The other six members are one-third time.) He finds it “an oddity to be a farmer from Turlock chairing a state agency dealing with the Delta.” He was raised on his family’s fruit tree and wine grape farm in Turlock, and continues in the family business. He is a past president of the Turlock Irrigation District and past president of the Association of California Water Agencies.

Fiorini was appointed to the Delta Stewardship Council by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of the original members. Fiorini was elected vice chair at the first meeting of the DSC in April 2010.

His view is that regulations are not the answer to problems. He said the DSC is light on regulations and heavy on coordination.

“Who should care about what we do?” he posed. “In the third year of drought, we have significant unreliable water supply problems in the Delta.” On May 13, 2013, the DSC approved a Delta Plan that includes 12 regulations and 73 recommendations. If the BDCP is approved by the State Department of Fish and Wildlife, it will be incorporated into the Delta Plan.

The Delta Plan includes a Science Plan. Policy and science work together, he said. We use the best available science in dealing with the ecosystem. All the agencies are overloaded with data. We synthesize the information and provide a central location for all agencies to access and coordinate.

The ecosystem priorities in the Delta Plan are levee integrity, habitat restoration, instream and through-Delta flows, and predation. He said that 20-25 percent of current agricultural land will be converted to shallow water habitat.

He added that watershed management is important. “Many small projects have statewide importance.”

Fiorini said the Delta Plan aligns with the California Water Action Plan, a statewide integrated water management plan ordered by Gov. Brown and released in January. Fiorini explained: We want to move California to a more sustainable position.

He remarked that the drought has created an unprecedented level of cooperation, and he is optimistic that it will continue.

Fiorini likened the role of the DSC to that of professional basketball player John Stockton, point guard for the Utah Jazz. Stockton consistently led the league in the number of assists.

Panel Program

2014 Calif Water Leaders Event June 6  (49) 2014 Calif Water Leaders Event June 6  (52) 2014 Calif Water Leaders Event June 6  (47)2014 Calif Water Leaders Event June 6  (48)

2014 Calif Water Leaders Event June 6  (40)2014 Calif Water Leaders Event June 6  (56)Moderator Tom Philp introduced the panel discussion by saying that in 1986, Folsom Dam nearly overtopped, putting the Sacramento Valley in flood danger. Today, we have a different type of emergency crisis brought about by a prolonged and widespread drought.

Cowin said DWR had made important decisions in a short time. “We listened carefully,” he said.

Marcus said the SWRCB has had lots of meetings. “We are not done yet. Stakeholders on all sides are disappointed.” She said that some advocates take extreme positions to look good to the crowd vs. helping make decisions.”

She said that crises can bring people together. She mentioned the Sacramento Valley rice farmers who, although they have senior water rights, proposed smaller crop yields and agreed to take their water later.

Fiorini stated the Delta Plan goes to the end of the century. We will apply lessons learned, he said, referring to an adaptive management approach.

2014 Calif Water Leaders Event June 6  (45)Nancy Weber, Nevada Irrigation District board member, said, “We lost structure. We don’t know how much we can depend on. You might take our carryover water.”

Marcus responded, “It shouldn’t be taken away. Our job is to protect water rights.”

Fiorini commented on the result of climate change. “California is not set up to deal with this,” he said. “We need regional interconnections.” He said water transfers should be reasonably priced and referred to an emergency transfer of 2,400 acre-feet from South San Joaquin Irrigation District to Tuolumne Utilities District at less than market value.

Philps said discussions in southern California are not focused on junior vs. senior water rights, but on what is the right mix of water system investments.

He mentioned a statewide poll conducted by USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times in May and June that said the drought has had little or no impact on their daily lives. Cowin responded that there is a growing interest in a bond for increasing investment and in water in general. The investments would be consistent with the California State Water Action Plan.

Fiorini chimed in, saying that the public needs to be informed of the importance of investments in water. The majority of investments will be by locals, 85 percent. Ten percent will be by the state. He added, “The 1960s were the heyday of construction in California.” That was when the State Water Project was built. California spent 20 percent of state GDP on infrastructure. Now it is two percent.

Marcus commented that water quality always polls well.

2014 Calif Water Leaders Event June 6  (50)Norm Krizl, Georgetown Divide Public Utility District board member and Vice President of the Mountain Counties board, questioned the application of the co-equal goals in the BDCP. “Increase water supply reliability is left off the BDCP map,” he said.

Cowin replied that the BDCP and California Water Action Plan have to work together. “It’s an all-of-the above strategy,” he said, and called for investment in the Integrated Regional Water Management Program.

Marcus pointed out, “The California Water Action Plan needs fleshing out for upper watersheds.”

Fiorini stated that during the Delta Plan process, Mountain Counties were active participants and advocates for area-of-origin water rights. “They are not disconnected from the Delta,” he said. “Delta operations have an effect on watersheds. It’s in all of our best interests to improve conditions in the Delta.”

Marcus said. “Fish talk is usually 75 percent flows. It’s not just flows.” We need a multiple-stressor approach that includes food, predation and habitat.

Karl Rodefer, Tuolumne County supervisor, introduced himself as coming from the home of the Rim Fire. He pointed out that 80 percent of the water supply comes from public lands.

Marcus replied that the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are starting to have conversations. She mentioned that illegal marijuana grows on public lands are becoming a water problem.

Cowin said the California Water Action Plan key agencies are meeting every six months to discuss implementation. The next meeting will be in November.

Bob Dean, ACWA Region 3 board chair and Calaveras County Water District board member, said that water in California comes from the Delta watershed and Colorado River. “We can’t resolve problems unless we understand where water originates.” He asked, “Why can’t the co-equal goals be applied everywhere?”

Marcus replied, “Yes, they apply to all.”

Cowin added, “Sustainable water management encompasses both, not one or the other.”

2014 Calif Water Leaders Event June 6  (57)Barbara Balen, Mountain Counties ex officio board member and former Tuolumne Utilities District board member, asked about the integration of human and natural systems management.

Marcus cited a program in Los Angeles created by a nonprofit called the TreePeople that plants trees to create urban forests.

Philp commented that Metropolitan is selling rain barrels. “They are going like hotcakes for outdoor water needs,” he said.

Mark Rentz, Integrated Natural Resources Management, suggested looking beyond the “litany of resources” to encompass biomass and forests. The values of integrated management include fiscal benefits, he said.

2014 Calif Water Leaders Event June 6  (21)Mountain Counties Executive Director John Kingsbury inquired about the BDCP process.

“At the end of the day, it is a permit process,” said Cowin. There is an extensive comment period going to the end of July. The plan is 40,000 pages. It is in its eighth year. Decisions will be made on imperfect information. We are seeking a 50-year plan.

Fiorini said the Delta Plan has six high-priority areas. It is “silent on conveyance.” The Delta Stewardship Council commented on the BDCP as a responsible agency. If it is permitted, it will be adopted into the Delta Plan. If not, there will be an appellate review of narrow issues. “Current conditions in the Delta are unsustainable,” he pointed out.

Marcus said it is important that the BDCP be included in the Delta Plan in order for it to be eligible for state funding, “as opposed to being up for grabs.”

She said the BDCP will need to meet flow standards and have a new point of diversion. “The southernmost diversion is the worst place.”

2014 Calif Water Leaders Event June 6  (46)Mountain Counties President Don Stump said, “We believe in all types of storage.”

Fiorini concurred, “There is no silver bullet.”

Cowin commented, “Nothing will happen without local champions who can demonstrate state interest and provide cost-sharing. He referred to the proposed 1.8 million acre-feet Sites Reservoir west of the Sacramento River that resulted from the formation of a joint powers authority. He also mentioned the Diamond Valley Reservoir near Hemet, where an archeological site was uncovered. The issue was resolved by the creation of a museum.

Fiorini concluded the panel discussion with a reference to the proposed installation of two radial arm gates that would add 3,000 acre-feet to Sugar Pine Reservoir in the Foresthill Public Utility District. It’s an “icon of opportunity with statewide benefits,” he said.

The program was co-sponsored by ECORP Consulting, Inc. and Sierra Nevada Conservancy, ATKINS. El Dorado County Water Agency was host.

2014 Calif Water Leaders Event June 6  (62)









Lower Left: Tom Philp, Felicia Marcus, Mark Cowin

Top Left:  John Kingsbury, Randy Fiorini, Don Stump

PCWA – Sierra Watershed is Key to State Water Supply

July 6, 2014


July 4, 2014

Contact:  David A. Breninger, PCWA (530) 823-4850

Or:     Dave Carter (530) 265-NEWSPCWA Logo

AUBURN – Water supplies in California are dependent upon the health and productivity of the Sierra Nevada watershed but local officials are not sure that this message is clear around the state.

 The importance of local watershed was the subject of a presentation at Thursday’s (July 3) meeting of the Placer County Water Agency Board of Directors. Geologist and PCWA consultant Marie Davis screened a slide show that PCWA has been using to brief water industry and elected officials from around the region and state.

“The Sierra Nevada is the backbone of the state’s water supply but there are still many people who are unaware of this,” said Davis, who noted several things, including forest health, vegetation management and sedimentation, can affect water runoff and quality. Davis and PCWA Director of Strategic Affairs Einar Maisch said state leaders need to recognize the value of the state’s headwaters areas.

TUD – Drought Related Project Near Completion

July 6, 2014


July 3, 2014

Contact: Lisa Westbrook,  Public Relationstud-logo

(209) 532-5536, x501

SONORA, CA: Tuolumne Utilities District (TUD) is near completion of a drought related reservoir expansion project located in Columbia.

“This was a critical project for the 2
District and one we thought was
necessary to help us to continue to
supply water to the Columbia area
during the drought and also to ensure
a water supply to the CAL Fire
Columbia Air Attack base,” states Tom
Scesa, General Manager.

TUD staff was able to secure the
necessary permits from State and
County agencies to move this project along quickly. As a high priority project, this project was
completed in six weeks. Also, TUD construction crews removed an estimated 16,830 cubic
yards of sludge from the existing reservoir to expand the total volume.

The Matelot Reservoir was expanded from 6 acre feet to a volume of 26.2 acre feet. “This is an
essential project that will help us to supply water to this area during the annual ditch outage that
occurs in October,” continues Scesa. The increased water supply would supply the Columbia
area with about three weeks of water storage. The District is in the process of securing drought
related funding for this project in the amount of $270,000 through the California Department of
Public Health.

The Reservoir is currently filling and should be filled to its capacity early next week.

3 1




MCWRA Letter to State Water Board – Curtailments/Water Rights

June 28, 2014

The Mountain Counties Water Resources Association (MCWRA) sent a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board expressing its concern over recent and pending State Water Resources Control Board curtailment actions.  The letter calls for the State Board to immediately develop a process to determine on a watershed-by-watershed, water-right-by-water-right basis where curtailments are necessary and where diversions may continue or resume.  The letter also states that the State Board must not lose sight of its concurrent obligation to honor the existing water code, including area of origin laws and the core principles of priority and regional self-sufficiency.

Letter:  State Water Resources Control Board – June 2014 final

MCWRA to the State Assembly Members – Oppose Senate Bill 1199

June 19, 2014

In a hand-carried letter to the CA Assembly Members last week and in an OP-ED media release, MCWRA expressed concern with Senate Bill 1199 because it removes water supply options in a time of drought and extended water storage and because it short circuits a state-funded million dollar collaborative use process.

John Kingsbury, MCWRA Executive Director said the bill could create serious implications for regional water storage development and water diversions not only on the Mokelumne River system, but also on other major rivers in the watersheds of the Sierra Nevada, which provide 60-70 percent of California’s water supply.  The legislature’s job is to help ensure future water supply reliability for all of California. Now is not the time to take water storage options off the table for California.

Letter:  SB1199 To All Assembly Members – June 12 2014 Oppose


Click here for Senate Bill 1199



California Water Commission meets in mountain counties

June 14, 2014

California Water Commission meets in mountain counties

Pictures from the Gallery

By Roberta Long, MCWRA writer

2014 May 21 Water Commission Workshop (19)At the invitation of Mountain Counties Water Resources Association, the California Water Commission left its Sacramento hearing chamber to hold a brief business meeting followed by a workshop on small water systems on May 21 at The Ridge Events Center in Auburn. The program was sponsored by Sierra West Consultants, Inc., of Fair Oaks.

In his welcoming remarks, Mountain Counties Executive Director John Kingsbury said: “Today, you are going to hear about the challenges, programs, collaboration and opportunities from the water purveyors that are balancing a limited water supply to meet the needs of this region and of the State.

“This region is committed to statewide water solutions that protect the economy, environment and quality of life not only in the region, but in all of California.

“You will hear that:

•”We need to advance the stewardship of not only the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but all across the watersheds and headwaters in the State, both on the west slope and the east slope, as everything is linked. You pull on one end, and you will feel the tug on the other end.

•”We need to increase the water carrying capacity in the watersheds.

•”We need to increase the surface water supply and storage starting at the crest of the Sierra.

•”You will hear how this region is a leader in water conservation and water efficiency practices.

•”You will hear how this region is working to optimize recycling opportunities, and working with our valley neighbors to improve groundwater supplies.”

Seven of the eight commissioners attended the workshop. They were: Joseph Byrne, Chair, Los Angeles; Andrew Ball, San Mateo; Daniel Curtin, Sacramento; Joe Del Bosque, Vice Chair, Los Baños; Kimberley Delfino, Sacramento; David Orth, Clovis; and Luther Hintz, Brownsville. Anthony Saraceno, Sacramento, participated by teleconference.

This was not the first time the California Water Commission took its meeting on the road.

A similar meeting and workshop was held in San Diego in March.

Chairman Byrne introduced himself by saying that although he resides in southern California, he claims a connection to the mountain counties. One of his forebears lived in Mud Flat, now the town of El Dorado, in El Dorado County.

The California Water Commission

The California Water Commission was established as the State Water Resources Board in 1945. The name was changed in 1956, and its powers were detailed in California Water Code. Commission appointments expired in the 2000s, and the Commission was left vacant. In 2010, Gov. Schwarzenegger appointed nine members to the commission. The full commission met for the first time in January 2011, and continues to hold regular monthly meetings on the third Wednesday, normally in Sacramento.

The newly constituted commission was given new responsibilities. Among them are: providing a public forum for discussing water issues, approving rules and regulations of the Department of Water Resources, conducting an annual review of the State Water Project to report to the Legislature, and selecting water storage projects for funding under the Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Act if and when it passes. The commission is following the directives of the  California Action Plan.

Del Bosque said the commission has been involved in promoting efficiency through agricultural measurements for volumetric pricing and the 20/20 conservation measure for municipal districts. The commission is also working with the Delta Stewardship Council.

“We are here because we want to educate ourselves about the whole state,” he said.

Delfino remarked that the mountain counties are in the forefront of climate change.

Mountain Counties regional overlay area background and interest

Mountain Counties Water Resources Association

Kingsbury said the Mountain Counties Association represents the water interests of members from all or a portion of 15 of the state’s 58 counties, from the southern tip of Lassen County to Fresno.  The area includes 10 major watersheds and 13 major rivers. The watersheds account for about a quarter of all natural runoff in California, averaging 17 million acre-feet, and over half of all snowmelt runoff in the state. The runoff is an important source of groundwater recharge into the valley floor aquifers. Forty percent of the state’s developed water supply originates in this area. Dedicated in-stream flow releases at designated dams are designed to meet beneficial uses for the environment, agriculture and urban needs. Major reservoirs provide hydroelectric power and flood protection.

2014 May 21 Water Commission Workshop (16)

Rural County Representatives of California

Nick Konovaloff, legislative analyst for RCRC, said that 50-75 percent of lands in the 33 RCRC counties are publicly owned. In Inyo County, it is 98 percent, he said.

He described the major challenge to water management in the rural counties: There are no economies of scale to pay for maintenance, repair and new facilities to manage water. He added that requirements of Proposition 218 add to the difficulties.

Konovaloff addressed RCRC’s response to the California Water Action Plan, which the California Water Commission is directed to follow. He said RCRC’s critique of the plan is that it is “lacking in the need to prioritize the restoration of forests and headwaters in order to increase California’s water supply.”

2014 May 21 Water Commission Workshop (18)Sierra Nevada Conservancy

The Sierra Nevada Conservancy is a nonprofit, non-regulatory organization that functions under the California Natural Resources Agency. It was established in 2004 with the passage of AB 2600, spearheaded by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and co-sponsored by Assemblymembers John Laird and Tim Leslie. The Conservancy covers nearly 25 million acres in all or part of 22 counties. It maintains offices in Auburn, Bishop, Mariposa and Susanville. The 13-member board includes Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird and El Dorado County Supervisor Ron Briggs, who represents the Central Subregion. Funding for the Conservancy comes from Proposition 184, passed in 2006, and the California Environmental License Plate Fund.

Policy and Programs Analyst Nic Enstice said the goal of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy is to improve the economic, environmental and social well-being of California. Enstice described some of the Conservancy’s programs. Several address the forest-water management connection.

The Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s Proposition 84 Grant Program has awarded over $52 million for some 300 projects that support efforts to reduce the risk of large damaging wildfires that devastate forests, threaten communities, destroy habitat, and impair the ability of the watersheds to sustainably produce supplies of water. These projects include creating jobs in local communities.

The Sierra Nevada Forest and Community Initiative is a collaborative approach to restoring forest health and local communities’ economic health. The Great Sierra River Cleanup, an annual volunteer event, has removed 600 tons of trash and recyclables from the Sierra Nevada waterways in five years. This year the Cleanup is scheduled for Sept. 20.

The Sierra Nevada Conservancy supports tourism and recreation in the 25 million acres of the region. The Sierra Nevada GeoTourism MapGuide is available online, in print or by mobile app.

The upper Mokelumne River watershed supplies drinking water to 1.3 Bay area residents.

The Mokelumne Watershed Avoided Cost Analysis looked at the question of whether it makes economic sense to increase investment in proactive forest management to reduce the risk of large wildfires. The Sierra Nevada Conservancy is a responsible agency engaged in assisting the development of community scale forest bioenergy facilities. The challenge is to reduce the fuel loads in the forests by using the biomass to provide energy on a scale that is economical.

In March, the Conservancy board adopted a joint resolution recognizing the important connection between the Sierra and the Delta, and agreeing to address policies that impact both regions.

2014 May 21 Water Commission Workshop (21)Sierra Business Council

Sierra Business Council President Steve Frisch said the Council is composed mainly of 4,000 small and mid-sized businesses. Its focus is on landscape conservation, sustainable management, community development and leadership development.

Frisch said Californians need a broader definition of water storage. The snowpack holds more water than the reservoirs, he said. He recommended increasing investment in science in the Sierra Nevada, using a pilot project approach.

He announced the Sierra Business Council will be holding a three-day Peak Innovation Conference Oct. 8-10 at North Lake Tahoe, where they will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Council, and looking forward to the next 20 years.

Challenges facing disadvantaged communities

2014 May 21 Water Commission Workshop (28)Historical Sierra Nevada perspective–Placer County Water Agency

Geologist and soil scientist Marie Davis, who works with Placer County Water Agency, introduced the character of the Sierra Nevada lands. She talked about the need to build adaptive capacity at the source.

Davis compared the headwater systems to circulatory systems, with creeks, streams and soil moisture as the capillaries that flow into the arterial rivers. These waters replenish Central Valley groundwater, supply water for California’s needs, and flow into the ocean to be returned to the watersheds. The forests act as conduits.

She talked about the role of the soils in water storage, and the danger of high intensity wildfires. In August of last summer there was a wildfire on the middle fork of the American River. It burned more than 27,000 acres over 17 days before it was contained. The summer before, the Robbers Fire burned 2,600 acres over nine days near the community of Foresthill. Davis said fires of that intensity sterilize the soils, which form a crust. It takes thousands of years for the soils to recover, she said.

Best Management Practices– El Dorado Irrigation District

Saying that “Mountain Counties water agencies are leaders, not laggards,” El Dorado Irrigation District (EID) General Counsel Tom Cumpston used his district as an example.

From 1925, the year it was formed, the district began implementing water conservation measures. The first measure was to line the miles of dirt ditches built by miners that carried water to local homes, farms and businesses. In 1970 EID was the first irrigation district to adopt a water conservation plan. In 1977 EID began Irrigation Management Service, providing soil-moisture readings, California Irrigation Management Information System data, and computerized, site-specific watering schedules, saving 2,000 acre-feet per year. In 1980 the district adopted a 100 percent metering policy. During the 1980s and 1990s, with grant assistance, the district implemented the first residential water audit, a leak detection program, the first low-flow toilet rebate program, and inclining-block conservation pricing.

Efforts continued in the 2000s, and the district was recognized with state and national water conservation awards.

Perhaps the innovation EID is most noted for is the dual-pipe residential program that was instituted in El Dorado Hills. In a partnership with the developer of a specific plan, about 4,000 units are dual-plumbed, with recycled water used for all front and backyard irrigation. With drought-resistant landscaping, the savings of potable water is around 2,500 acre-feet a year.

Cumpston said EID’s conservation savings provide regional and statewide benefits, but funding assistance is essential.

2014 May 21 Water Commission Workshop (29)Water rights challenges– El Dorado Irrigation District

Cumpston said, like many Mountain Counties water districts, EID’s historical water rights extend back to the 1850s through the 1920s. However, documenting continuous beneficial use through the economic changes from mining to agriculture to modern demands is challenging. EID now provides a population of about 100,000 people within a 220-mile service area in western El Dorado County with treated water, wastewater disposal, recycled water and recreation services. The district is entirely dependent on surface water. Operations and management of infrastructure more than 160 years old, especially in winter at high elevations, is a monumental challenge. Modernizing projects pose environmental challenges.

EID successfully fended off a threat to senior water rights when the State Water Resources Control Board applied Term 91 as a condition of exercising those rights. The result of applying Term 91 would have reduced those rights to junior status. Judge Robie upheld the trial court’s ruling in favor of EID in 2006.

2014 May 21 Water Commission Workshop (31)Operational challenges– Amador Water Agency

Amador Water Agency General Manager Gene Mancebo said the agency serves around 10,000 customers. The county is losing population. Between 2010 and 2013, the county lost 4.1 percent, while the state gained 2.9 percent. Amador has an average of one person per square mile versus 2,420 in the Los Angeles and 1,471 in Sacramento. Thirty-seven percent of the residents are 55 or over. Unemployment is high and wages are low. Rates are high and rate increases are protested.

Outdated facilities create problems for water quantity and quality. Leaks, erosion, and breaks

have to be repaired in summer temperatures of over 100 degrees, and in winter when snowshoes provide the only access.

In spite of the difficulties, the agency is being proactive. With the financial assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and a bridge loan from Amador County, the agency is in the process of installing a 6.6-mile gravity-fed pipeline that will deliver Mokelumne River water from its Tiger Creek Regulator Reservoir. The Gravity Supply Line will replace an aging pumped raw water delivery system. The reduced operating costs and power-related water interruptions in the upcountry will conserve water and money and improve fire protection.

Another project is the Amador-Calaveras Groundwater Basin Recharge. It is an integrated regional conjunctive use project with East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD). The benefits are an increase in a reliable water supply for Amador and Calaveras, groundwater basin recharge and sustainability for San Joaquin, and drought protection for EBMUD. In addition, the project provides opportunities to settle Mokelumne River water rights protests.

2014 May 21 Water Commission Workshop (34)Funding challenges–Calaveras County Water District

Calaveras County Water District Board Director Don Stump said the district was formed as a county water district in 1946. Its service area covers 1,100 square miles with 44,000 people. The water district serves around 15,000 customers.

Stump said the base bi-monthly water rate is $100, and is moving to $125. “We have maxed out our ability to go to ratepayers,” he said.

He said Calaveras’s system was not designed for water storage. The district is studying 23 small projects all across the service area. “Three have serious potential,” he said. Meadow restoration may offer some additional opportunities.

“We are already experiencing climate change,” Stump said. “More water will be coming as rain.”

The Mokelumne, Calaveras and Stanislaus rivers all flow into the Delta, where all the water ends below. “Control is out of our hands,” he said. “We believe in beneficiary pays. We can’t be good stewards without funding.”

2014 May 21 Water Commission Workshop (39)Economy–County of Placer

Placer County Supervisors Jennifer Montgomery represents District 5, the largest district in Placer County. It stretches from the city of Auburn to Lake Tahoe. A major part of eastern Placer County is federally managed.

Montgomery said she lives near Donner Summit, at 7,000 feet elevation. She said Tahoe businesses took a big hit this winter. With the exception of a few storms, the ski resorts did the best they could with manufactured snow from snow machines. But the perception of no snow discouraged winter visitors and all businesses were affected. This affects the county too, she said.

Low water is also affecting the summer tourist season. Montgomery said that in Tahoe City the rafting companies that go on the Truckee River are down to a three-week season. In the lower elevations, the agriculture industry is being affected.

Montgomery said, “The biggest bang for the buck is to concentrate on where the water comes from. That’s where you’ll get the biggest return on investment.” There are opportunities for watershed management and investments in soft infrastructure. “The science is there, “she said. “We need a couple more years to ‘true it up.’”

She talked about Placer County’s Forest Biomass Reduction and Wildfire Treatments project on the east side of the Sierra Nevada between Truckee and Squaw Valley. It uses forest waste products that would otherwise be burned, keeping the air cleaner and creating energy from waste. A 2.1 MW plant will provide five jobs. Montgomery said the project is “cheaper than forest fires.”

Regional project opportunities

Five water districts and agencies presented representative projects and actions that are either proposed or underway. At the end of the day, Mountain Counties President Don Stump summarized the messages from the workshop.

2014 May 21 Water Commission Workshop (46)Nevada Irrigation District–Storage Recovery Project


Nevada Irrigation District (NID) has 5,560 customers in an area that covers 287,000 acres east and west of Highway 49 from north of Auburn to north of Nevada City.  General Manager Rem Scherzinger said the district’s waters are snow-driven. Snow surveys taken April 30 measured 16 percent of average water content in the mountain snowpack that supplies the system. We are experiencing a changing climate, he said. There will be very little carryover for the next winter if the dry weather continues.

Nevada Irrigation District’s reservoirs are in an area that was heavily mined. Sediment has been building up in the reservoirs, reducing storage capacity. The sediment contains mercury residue from the mines. NID owns the only mercury-removing machine in the state. The machine will be put into operation this summer at Combie Lake Reservoir. NID is working with the State Water Resources Control Board to return lost storage to impacted dams. The recovery at Lake Combie provides clean aggregate. Scherzinger said there is market potential from gold and other elements in the sediment. He said NID is running out of water and has to diversify its portfolio.

2014 May 21 Water Commission Workshop (49)Placer County Water Agency-Northern California water reliability

Andy Fecko, director of resource development for Placer County Water Agency (PCWA), explained PCWA’s position on the effects of current conditions in Placer and El Dorado counties, where the American River basin is located.  He said that PCWA believes Placer and El Dorado county water resources are threatened by the operation of federal facilities, particularly federal reservoirs that serve their regions.

He specifically mentioned Folsom reservoir, which was completed in 1956 primarily as a flood control project. The reservoir collects waters from the three forks of the American River, and can hold almost one million acre-feet of water. However, due to the combination of an extended drought and increasing regulatory demands for water for endangered fish species and Delta water quality standards, the water levels periodically fall dangerously low.

Recently, water levels almost fell below the intake pipes that carry water to customers in the San Juan Water District, the City of Roseville and the City of Folsom.

He pointed out that Folsom Lake, as the closest large reservoir in the Central Valley Project system, is the first responder to an emergency in the Delta. Extremely low water levels impair the ability to respond.

Fecko said the statewide water plan should include an operational plan for the region’s reservoirs and rivers that takes into account the changing climate and maintains enough water in storage to prepare for drought years.

He said the local American River basin purveyors realize they can no longer rely solely on Folsom Lake to meet the region’s water needs. Investments in new facilities and joint programs are required. PCWA and other purveyors are taking steps to diversify water supplies and enhance reliability through conservation actions and infrastructure projects.

In an email addendum following the workshop, Fecko addressed the expected effects of the $962 million auxiliary spillway being constructed at Folsom Dam. The spillway is a joint project between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to provide the Sacramento region with 200-year level of flood protection.

Fecko said: “The flood control infrastructure upgrade, along with better hydrology and weather forecasting, should allow increased water storage in the fall and through the winter.  It is important that this be codified in an updated Folsom operating plan. In our view, the Folsom upgrades are not yet complete. A new temperature control device to allow finer control of release temperatures to benefit salmon and steelhead is still needed as well as an extension of the power intakes to allow access to the very bottom of the reservoir without bypassing power production. Both of these upgrades ought to be completed as soon as possible.”

2014 May 21 Water Commission Workshop (52)Foresthill Public Utility District–Sugar Pine Dam Raise

Foresthill is 60 miles northeast of Sacramento, in Placer County. The water district serves around 2,000 customers, mostly residential. The district’s sole reservoir, Sugar Pine, is within the Tahoe National Forest at 3,600 feet elevation.

General Manager Hank White said that Sugar Pine Dam was designed to hold 10,000 acre-feet. Construction was finished in 1981 with two spillway openings, and although the hydraulic cylinders to fit radial arms were attached to the walls, the radial arms were not installed at the time. The reservoir capacity was 7,000 acre-feet. White said the district believes now is the time to finish the project. By controlling water flows with the radial arms, the reservoir could hold an additional 3,000 acre-feet.

White said the small project would have large benefits, not only for the district, but also the region. He enumerated the merits: drought–increases storage; population growth–prepares region for growth; climate change–captures water when it is available; declining fish habitat–enhances fishery and improves ecosystem resources; poor flood protection–provides additional flood protection to 7 million residents in flood plains; supply disruptions–regional resource management; poor water quality–impounds the highest quality water; timeline–shovel ready.

2014 May 21 Water Commission Workshop (54)El Dorado County Water Agency–The Watershed Connection

“The Rim Fire was a game-changer,” said General Manager Dave Eggerton. “The conditions that caused that catastrophic wildfire are evident all throughout the Sierra Nevada and threaten our headwaters. This affects all Californians.”

He emphasized projections that point to a 60 percent loss of snowpack by 2050, and said

he supports the Water Action Plan’s call to make investments in the water supply from the Sierra Nevada a high priority.

Eggerton referred to the Policy Principles for Improved Management of California’s Headwaters, adopted by the Association of California Water Agencies in March 2013, as articulating a comprehensive solution.

He said the El Dorado County Water Agency is working with the Delta Stewardship Council to link with the Council’s science program and bring options and tools to the upper watersheds.

Eggerton said there are connections between the upper watersheds and downstream groundwater areas. “There are incredible needs and opportunities to protect existing water supplies,” he said. Banking water downstream is one approach. It will replenish drained basins and store water for the future.

One of the agency’s responsibilities is to secure water rights for El Dorado County. Eggerton said: “For the last several years, we have worked hard to redesign our water rights application to the State Water Resources Control Board for 40,000 acre-feet of water storage in Sacramento Municipal Utility Districts Upper American River reservoirs. We are doing it in a way that meets our local economic and environmental needs while advancing important policy goals of the state and our region such as groundwater banking, drought protection, water use efficiency, ecosystem enhancement, and local water supply reliability today and for the future.”

2014 May 21 Water Commission Workshop (56)South Tahoe Public Utility District–The Northern Nevada Connection

Assistant General Manager Paul Sciuto said the Tahoe region has several water districts around Lake Tahoe and in the two states of California and Nevada. The Truckee River supplies about 75 percent of the water supply for Reno-Sparks. In California, the Truckee River basin  includes the communities of Tahoe City, Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley and Truckee. Much of it is within the Tahoe and Toiyabe National Forests.

The east and west forks of the Carson River originate in Alpine County, south of Lake Tahoe, and join the Carson River in Genoa, Nevada. Most of the Carson River watershed is in public lands and includes lands of the Washoe Tribe in California and Nevada.

South Tahoe District encompasses 27,000 acres along the south shore of Lake Tahoe from the Nevada state line west to include Emerald Bay. The district is totally dependent on groundwater wells for its water supply. Annual production is nearly 2.5 billion gallons from 16 groundwater wells, which is stored in 22 tanks. More than 13,900 homes and businesses are served through 253 miles of waterlines.

California’s Porter Cologne Water Quality Control Act, which passed in 1969, mandates that all effluent must be transported outside the Tahoe Basin. South Tahoe has three treated effluent pipelines out of the basin and one raw wastewater pipe. With 17,800 wastewater customers, the district exports about 1.6 billion gallons of treated effluent a year. The recycled water is pumped to Alpine County and to Nevada, where it is used for irrigation. The district is allowed an exception to use recycled water for fire.

Sciuto said the snowpack was 20 percent of normal this past winter. If there is any good news, it is that the beaches will be much bigger this summer, he said.

South Tahoe is one of 16 parties who signed the Truckee River Operating Agreement in September 2008. This landmark agreement followed decades of fighting and litigation. Sciuto itemized benefits of the agreement: 1) increases the operational flexibility and efficiency of reservoirs; 2) provides additional opportunities to store water in existing reservoirs; 3) enhances spawning flows and fish habitat; 4) increases recreational opportunities; 5) improves water quality in the Truckee River.

Water rights on the Carson River were clarified by a federal court decree entered in October 1980. The decree had been initiated in 1925, 55 years earlier. The decree establishes the rights to reservoir storage in the high alpine reservoirs.

Sciuto said the Tahoe area was traumatized by the Angora Fire in 2007. As a result, the district is replacing undersized pipes and upgrading pumps and other facilities to be better prepared for a fire event in the future. He said the water and fire agencies are building links to coordinate firefighting efforts.

Mountain Counties Water Resources Association–The Statewide Connection

Mountain Counties President Don Stump told the Commission, “We would like you guys to be our new best friends. We’re pretty sophisticated. We work closely with each other and with others in the region. We’ve done a whole lot with very little.”

Next steps

Commissioner Del Bosque told the audience, “This workshop has been enlightening. We got more information here than if we had been in Sacramento. I’m interested in hearing more.”

Commissioner Curtin reiterated Del Bosque’s remarks. “I’m incredibly impressed and informed,” he said.

Curtin made a motion that was unanimously passed to direct staff to investigate the possibility of a joint meeting with a Commission regarding forestry and water issues.

Mountain Counties response

Following the meeting, Mountain Counties Executive Director John Kingsbury said, “I very much appreciate the Commission’s interest in this region and I look forward to working with the commissioners and their staff to advance this region’s water supply interests and those of the state.”

Jeffrey Bensch, principal engineer with Sierra West Consultants, sponsor of the workshop, said, “Sierra West recently joined Mountain Counties after attending a number of uniquely informative and timely events related to the region’s water supply needs. We appreciate the opportunity to underwrite an event that supports Mountain Counties and applies to small water systems that are often overshadowed by concerns of the larger water agencies in California.”


2014 May 21 Water Commission Workshop (61)

North State Coalition Urges Governor and Legislature to Act on Roadmap for Statewide Solution to California’s Ongoing Water Crisis

June 9, 2014


Contact:  Kris Deutschman   Christine Braziel
(916) 425-7174     (916) 214-3527
kris@kdcgroup.com        christine@crockercrocker.com

 SACRAMENTO, CA –  Yesterday, June 9, founders of the of the North State Water Alliance joined Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, elected officials, business, labor, agriculture and environmental interests to unveil their criteria for a water bond that reflects a comprehensive solution to meet short-term and long-term water reliability needs for all of California.

During a press conference held at the State Capitol, North State Water Alliance leaders and supporters called upon the California Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown to act quickly on a water bond that improves statewide water supply reliability for people and nature and that meets the following criteria:

  • Maintain water rights – for stability and certainty in water operations.
  • Advance new water storage and operational improvements – to increase flexibility in managing water during dry periods.
  • Increase groundwater storage – recharge, storage and extraction projects for safe drinking water supplies.
  • Improve urban water management – maximize statewide water savings through projects that support recycling, stormwater management and conservation.
  • Protect and restore watersheds and ecosystems – prioritize migratory corridors needing immediate assistance including those for salmon and steelhead and water supplies along the Pacific Flyway.

As California struggles through a third year of drought, legislators from both parties are drafting proposals to spend billions of dollars on new water infrastructure. Several different bills are pending in the Legislature that would use varying amounts of state bond funding to launch a new era of projects designed to increase the state’s capacity to store water, enhance water conservation and improve water operations.

“Our current water system was a technological and engineering marvel of the 20th century and we can do the same in the 21st century,” said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. “This issue demands that we find forward-thinking solutions and we’re here today to show our commitment to working with Governor Brown, legislators, our regional partners and statewide water interests to find a common-sense solution for all of California. This solution includes investments in infrastructure, protecting this region’s water supply, economy and environmental assets and a commitment to responsible stewardship of the water resources we have so that we can continue to do more with less,” said Johnson.

“The North State Water Alliance is forging a unified voice among our regional leaders to show legislators there’s a pathway to a statewide water solution,” said Bryce Lundberg, chair of the Northern California Water Association and vice president of Lundberg Family Farms. “The Alliance was established to shine the light on how proposed water policies impact this region and to help policymakers find solutions to meeting the water supply needs for Northern California and the entire state.”

Participating in the event were representatives from the labor industry who pointed out that state law requires identifiable water sources as a condition for obtaining building permits on major projects, which makes improving California’s water system mandatory to growing the economy and creating good new construction jobs.

“California’s water storage and delivery system is more than a half-century old. This has to be the year that we make the major investments in water storage and delivery that will keep our state green and prospering, that will provide protection from future droughts, and will put thousands of Californians to work,“ said Cesar Diaz, legislative director for the State Building and Construction Trades Council.

Also attending the press conference were environmental organizations including The Nature Conservancy, which noted that they are analyzing proposed bond measures through the lens of state water laws passed in 2009. Those reforms created “coequal goals” to guide state water policy, mandating for the first time that new water projects must both improve water supply reliability and restore ecosystems.

“The Nature Conservancy supports a water bond to increase flexibility in water management to better meet the water supply needs for people and nature,” said Jay Ziegler, director of policy and external affairs for The Nature Conservancy. “We believe that a bond is necessary to address regional water supply improvements, expand water conservation efforts, and promote watershed and habitat restoration. This approach is necessary to achieve the co-equal goals of California’s 2009 water reform legislation.“

Representing California employers, Stan Van Vleck, owner and president of Van Vleck Ranch, partner and chairman of the region’s largest law firm Downey Brand, and vice chair of the Sacramento Metro Chamber, highlighted the impact that water uncertainty is having on all businesses regardless of location.

“My own family’s ranching business has felt firsthand the impacts of not having enough water and as a direct result of the ongoing drought, we’ve had to sell 90% of our cattle,” said Van Vleck. “This is the first time in our 158 years of doing business in California that we have had to take such extreme action.“

“We are not alone and no one is immune. Thousands of families involved in agriculture and connected with processing and production of the state’s food supplies and exports need our policy leaders to take action on a bond that funds actions to improve local and regional water self-reliance in areas most threatened by the drought and that builds resiliency and flexibility into our water supplies, including new storage, water efficiency measures, and expanded use of recycled water,” said Van Vleck.

Concluded Lundberg: “We look forward to working with our regional partners, state legislators and Governor Brown to come to agreement on a statewide solution for water reliability for our region and state and to come to it quickly.”

Founded by the Northern California Water Association, Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce, Mountain Counties Water Resources Association, Regional Water Authority and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, the North State Water Alliance is a growing coalition of cities, counties, water providers, business, agriculture and community groups. Its mission is to promote responsible statewide water solutions that protect the economy, environment and quality of life for the North State and for all Californians. To learn more about the North State Water Alliance and its water bond principles visit www.northstatewater.org.

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