Seeking to preserve enough water in Sly Park to carry over to a possible second year of drought, the El Dorado Irrigation District cut its releases into Clear Creek from 3 cubic feet per second to 1 cfs May 27 when the State Water Resources Control Board issued a water rights curtailment order. That order affected the district’s diversion of flows in Camp and Park creeks into Jenkinson Reservoir.
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Once EID dropped its releases to 1 cfs from Jenkinson, 36 ditch customers were left without water.
An emergency meeting June 13 brought the ditch customers in seeking relief. Described by the three board members who were in attendance — Directors Bill George, Greg Prada and Alan Day — as polite and respectful, the customers won an increase in releases into Clear Creek.
Clear Creek is fed by its own watershed, though normally EID releases 3 cfs from Sly Park downstream of the upper reaches of the Clear Creek watershed to maintain aesthetic appearances of the creek and to serve ditch customers who divert a portion of Clear Creek farther downstream.
The first diversion is into Crawford Ditch. What’s left over from Crawford Ditch flows into Squaw Hollow Creek and then that is diverted into the East Diamond Ditch.
What the board on a 3-0 vote decided June 13 was to release 2.5 cfs into Clear Creek. That provided 2.11 cfs by the time it got to the Crawford Ditch intersection. With 0.5 cfs required for fish flows, that left 1.66 cfs for the Crawford Ditch.
The board agreed to continue this until July 15, essentially as an experiment, with further action to be taken at the July 14 meeting.Because the ditch had been dewatered by the 1 cfs releases, it “was slow and difficult to ‘water up,’ confirming that any attempt to provide intermittent service would require more water than it takes to maintain an adequate continuous flow,” read a staff report from Operations Manager Tom McKinney.
Sending 1.66 cfs into Crawford Ditch constitutes greater than a 30 percent cutback in service and has forced the ditch customers to stagger their deliveries. EID is aiding ditch service by having a ditch tender serving the ditches on a “near constant” basis. Also helping has been “customer cooperation.”
“Customer cooperation” refers to halting illegal diversions.
“The combined tail water and natural flows of Squaw Hollow Creek traverse about a mile of stream channel before reaching the headworks of the East Diamond Ditch, which have a .05 cfs capacity.
“That same stream reach also features a private diversion structure operated by three property owners who claim a vested contractual right to receive 15 miners inches (.0375 cfs) of water from the district. The district disputes their legal position. Intermittent discussions over the past three years have not yet produced a negotiated resolution. Excessive diversions at this structure can frustrate service to the East Diamond Ditch,” the staff report states.
The board voted 5-0 to continue the June 13 action until rains return.
Prada was so impressed with the amity and the way George approached the issue June 13 that he made a motion July 14 to nominate George as vice president of the board. The motion passed 5-0. Up until July 14 the board did not have a vice president, having failed twice to elect one as Director Dale Coco had abstained and votes for Bill George failed on tie votes.