Water Agency discusses drought plans

By From page A1 | March 19, 2014

The drought and what is being done to cope with it was the main agenda item at the March 12 meeting of the El Dorado County Water Agency.

Dave Eggerton, general manager of the agency, noted that 2013 is the driest year on record since the 19th century with 2014 being more of the same.

Local reservoirs such as Stumpy Meadows and Jenkinson Lake are at approximately 70 percent and 76 percent of total capacity, respectively, reported Eggerton. El Dorado Irrigation District has augmented storage at Jenkinson Reservoir by moving Project 184 water from the South Fork of the American River to Jenkinson Reservoir through the Hazel Creek Tunnel.

Folsom Lake is currently at about 40 percent of capacity because of the recent storms. Typically it’s at 67 percent of capacity at this time of year. Before the recent storms, the lake was just a few months away from becoming a dead pool, according to Eggerton.

A reservoir is considered a dead pool when the water level is so low that it cannot drain by gravity through the dam’s outlet works.

Water levels at other federal and state reservoirs are also way below average, he said. As a result, deliveries for municipal, industrial and agricultural customers will be severely diminished. For the first time in history, the state has allocated zero water for all contractors of the State Water Project. Similarly, many farmers in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys will not see any Central Valley Project water this year, and municipal and industrial customers of the Central Valley Project across the state, including Folsom Lake and El Dorado Irrigation District, have seen their allocations reduced by 50 percent of historic use.

Eggerton said of greater concern is that the snowpack remains smaller than normal, with the last snow survey showing the water content at only 24 percent of normal.

In response, the Water Agency is working on a number of initiatives to support local purveyors and the community, including leading an interagency coordination committee, pursuing state and federal funding for local projects and programs and conveying a Drought Advisory Committee of local stakeholders. Included in his staff report was a long list of projects that would improve water supply reliability for Grizzly Flat, EID, Georgetown Divide PUD, Tahoe City PUD, South Tahoe PUD, and the Water Agency itself with the total cost of these projects coming in at more than $71 million.

Eggerton said the drought funds to be provided by the state won’t do much this year when it comes to conserving water. In the meantime they will be seeking temporary regulatory relief from instream flow and discharge requirements to conserve water. Both EID and GDPUD intend to pursue such relief.

In the discussion that followed, Supervisor Brian Veerkamp noted that the west end of the county was not responding to the drought declaration and more outreach was needed to inform the public about the seriousness of the situation. Supervisor Ron Mikulaco said one of the problems in that part of the county is homeowner association rules that require residents to keep their grass green. Veerkamp said EID was making an extra effort to contact those associations.

Private wells were also a topic of discussion, with Eggerton reporting that more wells than average were being drilled. With the possibility of wells going dry, he suggested putting in 11 additional water stations so those who need water can drive up and buy what they need. It is estimated that there are tens of thousands of private wells in the county. Currently EID has seven such water stations.

In a separate matter, Eggerton reported the Water Agency is in discussions with El Dorado County regarding the provision of services by the county for the Water Agency and the employment of staff at the agency.

Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.

Dawn Hodson

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