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Two days after endorsing Richard Englefield’s opponent for EID Division 2, the Mountain Democrat leads its editorial “Water rights under attack,” with “the real challenge for the two new directors … is to hold on to what we have,” referring to current and potential water rights. Mr. Englefield’s opponent has on several occasions in print and public forum, railed against keeping and pursuing these same rights. He has even suggested EID divest itself from Project 184. A project, by the way, that provides both revenue and water rights. Neither of those ideas are good sense.
Those views demonstrate a lack of depth of knowledge about our complex water system. Perhaps it is timely to reflect on some very positive facts. The state of California has declared El Dorado, along with all California counties, to be in a drought condition. Over the past few years EID has successfully completed the requirements to have our water rights officially filed with the State Water Rights Board. EID has integrated Project 184 water with Sly Park reservoir so that a reliable supply is available. EID has been able to deliver adequate water of excellent quality, even in drought conditions.
It cost a lot of money to repair, recondition and improve the storage and delivery system. It is important that we pursue additional water rights because part of our system is very sensitive to periodic drought — Sly Park depends on annual rainfall to refill. Low rainfall years, such as experienced in the 1970s resulted in a mud puddle for Sly Park and water rationing. A Drought Planning Study, financed by EID, determined that we needed to insure such a condition be avoided in the future. That resulted in the new Master Planning Water Study and proposals advanced this year.
Our community needs to be vigilant so that a reckless assessment of debt status and water rights doesn’t place our future supply in jeopardy. We need a fully functional board to think carefully and act responsibly to protect our great water resources. Project 184 is the hydroelectric project that produces from $6 million to $10 million of profit from energy sales each year. It shares in the cost of maintenance and repair of the storage reservoirs and conveyance system that delivers our water.
That system has required some expensive repairs and regulatory work. EID holds a license from FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) to operate the system under very specific conditions spelled out in the license. The storage reservoirs, our community depends upon for water, are the basis of most of our water rights.
If EID were to decide to give up the license the water users would be obligated to finance all of the dam maintenance and conveyance system expenses. Our water rates would go up. Further, FERC could decide to award the license to operate the hydroelectric system to another entity.
Richard Englefield worked to protect and increase our county’s water rights when he served on the El Dorado County Water Agency and on the El Dorado Water and Power Authority. He also served on the Grizzly Flat Community Services District where he helped rebuild an inefficient water system on time and under budget and helped turn around a dire financial situation.
The local Farm Bureau and growers across the county are united behind Richard Englefield and Dale Coco as the candidates who will best protect water rights and limit rate increases. They will make fully functional board members who will address costs, debt structure, rates and water rights to assure a positive future.
TOM HEFLIN, Rainbow Orchards
DOUG LEISZ, Forester, Grape grower, Chair of Citizens for Water