Wednesday, April 23, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

EID declares Stage 2 drought emergency

DSC_6840

JENKINSON LAKE at Sly Park is 64 percent of capacity as of Feb. 6. Had EID not imported water from the El Dorado Canal via Hazel Creek Tunnel it would have been at 54 percent, below what it was in 1976, the last drought year. Democrat photos by Pat Dollins

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From page A1 | February 07, 2014 | 13 Comments

The El Dorado Irrigation District Board of Directors Tuesday skipped right over Stage 1 and unanimously went to a Stage 2 Water Supply Warning and asked customers to voluntarily reduce water consumption 30 percent.

The water savings also applies to recycled water customers because recycled water is often supplemented with potable water.

The resolution declaring “the existence of an emergency” will enable the district to reduce fish flows from its Kyburz Diversion Dam and from its four alpine reservoirs as well as Jenkinson Lake in Sly Park.

The resolution took effect immediately, said General Counsel Tom Cumpston at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“This is serious. Everybody needs to pitch in,” said Board President Alan Day.

“I encourage those (farmers) not on the Irrigation Management System to get on it,” said Director George Osborne. “All we’re really doing is planning for next year. If the good Lord doesn’t bring us rain, we’ve got something to live on next year.”

Jenkinson Lake at Sly Park is currently at 63 percent of its 41,000 acre-foot capacity, which is what the lake level was at in the drought year of 1976. However, last year EID shifted 3,390 acre-feet of water from the El Dorado Canal into Jenkinson Lake via the Hazel Creek Tunnel. Were it not for that, the lake would be at 54 percent of capacity or 22,400 acre feet — below where it was in 1976.

During the rainfall event Jan. 29-30 EID was able to transfer 120 acre-feet of water to Sly Park and run its powerhouse, which otherwise has been shut down to conserve water in the alpine reservoirs.

The rain year 1976-77 recorded 15.86 inches, setting the record for the lowest season rain total (July 1-June 30) in 139 years. Second lowest was 1975-76 at 15.9 inches.

The board did not enact a drought surcharge, a worry that brought an audience of 69 to EID’s larger meeting room in the rear of its Mosquito Road headquarters.

The board put off discussion of drought surcharges until the March 10 board meeting, though there was little enthusiasm on the board at the Feb. 4 meeting for a surcharge.

“March 10 is a little early for my comfort zone,” said Director Greg Prada, referring to discussion of drought surcharges.

Also on the agenda will be discussion of whether to switch from voluntary to mandatory water savings. The principal result of mandatory savings would be to prevent planting of row crops and any new plantings.

That potential restriction worried wine grape and blueberry growers, who said they had put in their orders for new plantings two years ago. A row crop ban would affect strawberry growers in particular.

The relief from fish flow requirements by the U.S. Forest Service, the State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is needed to save the water EID has in its four alpine reservoirs — Caples, Silver, Aloha and Echo lakes. Otherwise its FERC license would require EID to release 20 cubic feet per second from its Kyburz Diversion Dam, escalating to 60 cfs through June and 40 cfs in July.

Instead, with the emergency declaration EID will release 15 cfs below the dam. The alpine reservoirs’ release will be dropped from 5 cfs to 2 cfs. That would save 5,000 acre-feet, said General Manager Jim Abercrombie.

As of Jan. 30, Caples Lake held 56 percent of its 22,338 acre-foot capacity, Silver Lake held 15 percent of its 8,640 acre-foot capacity, Lakes Aloha and Echo were frozen in for the winter and their levels are sketchy.

Among additional emergency actions listed by Abercrombie are installing the flash boards at Echo Lake before April 1 to capture as much snow melt as possible and getting permission from the state Division of Safety of Dams to close the radial gates early on Silver Lake Dam for maximum runoff retention.

Without the outflow restrictions on the lakes and the diversion dam that shunts water from the South Fork of the American River into the 22-mile-long El Dorado Canal, Abercrombie and EID’s engineering staff predict Silver Lake would become a dead pool by September, Caples Lake by July, Lake Aloha by June and Echo Lake by September. That would leave no carryover should 2014-2015 turn dry.

Doug Liesz, chairman of the Citizens for Water, urged EID to reclaim part of Echo Lake’s water that is required to be sent into Lake Tahoe.

“You’ve got to take aggressive action on Echo Lake water taken from us for Lake Tahoe,” Liesz said.

EID has an allocation of 7,550 acre-feet of water from Folsom Lake, plus 4,560 acre-feet from ditch water and Weber Dam water that is sent down Weber Creek and then pumped out of Folsom Lake. Indications from the Bureau of Reclamation are that EID will get 5,000 acre-feet from its allotment — a 60 percent reduction — and 3,000 acre-feet or less from its Weber Creek water rights. Folsom Lake’s — at 17 percent of its 1 million acre-feet capacity — level is 357 feet, 10 feet above is historical low of 347.5 feet in 1977. Ominously, the bureau has also asked for data on a “health and safety” allotment.

An additional aspect of the resolution allows the district to take immediate advantage of any drought project funding that would become available from the state and federal governments by waving bidding requirements. That would allow design-build projects to be approved by the board.

Similar actions happened in the 1975-77 drought, where emergency funding became available to build the Sly Park Intertie and expand Bass Lake.

Three key differences from the 1975-77 drought are the timing of the emergency declaration and the fact that EID bought Project 184 — four alpine reservoirs, diversion dam, El Dorado Canal and powerhouse — from PG&E in 1999 and it bought Jenkinson Lake and its water rights in 2003. Built in 1955 as part of the Central Valley Project, getting local control of that “was a big legal battle,” said Osborne. “The feds can’t take our water.”

Osborne pointed to other long-term efforts by the board and staff that have improved EID’s capacity to withstand a drought better than it could in 1975-77, including abandoning ditches, but retaining their water rights, constructing and repairing Hazel Creek Tunnel, covering small area reservoirs and the district counsel’s efforts to secure various water rights.

Abercrombie also noted that the board was acting much farther in advance than it did during the 1975-77 drought. That time the board didn’t declare a drought emergency until February of 1977, the last year of the two-year drought.

This time the board is acting at the beginning of what appears to be a record-setting dry year. Jan. 13 the board had asked customers to voluntarily save 15 percent, but this January saw water consumption rise 27 percent above the three-year average for January.

Day, who has a landscape maintenance business, said the reason consumption went higher was no rain, prompting a lot of irrigation, “and lots of kids home from college” taking long showers.

Michael Raffety

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 13 comments

  • Ernie LouisFebruary 05, 2014 - 1:56 pm

    We all pitched in before and you can count on water users to conserve life giving water. EID should do it’s part as well. The board of Directors may want to look at several issues such as the wasteful use of water released down the American Rivers for the recreational and commercial rafting . I’m sure the well trained staff at EID can identify many water saving measures that can be implemented. (if asked) If we all do our part , we can survive. Ernie Louis

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  • Truth be toldFebruary 05, 2014 - 6:14 pm

    Like EID has anything to do with river flows or rain fall. Check the USBR Mid Pacific region website, and specifically the page that shows Folsom outflows over the last year. Last summer the USBR continuously let out 1.5 billion gallons per day. Yes, Billion with a B. The peak day in July they let out 2.5 billion. In one day! That is a full summers worth of EID flows passing out of Folsom in one day. EID treats the water you drink, the Feds are the ones sending it to So. Ca. Even in Jan with everyone yelling drought, USBR was releasing a net 225 Million gallons per day. As for customers conserving, Roseville reported on nightly news last week that drinking water demands were up 20%, not down. EID customers have increased usage 27%! The EID board declared drought to allow avoiding the same Feds from mandating the same suicidal releases from our Sierra Lakes as currently being released at Folsom. Keep expressing your concern, but direct it appropriately to the USBR Folsom office, they are the ones with control of the valve, not EID. As for El Dorado customers reducing usage, that will only happen with increased rates. That is just human nature, unfortunately.

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  • Foaming at the MouthFebruary 05, 2014 - 8:42 pm

    Truth, your comment is cogent, well-researched and articulate. It has no place in the pages of the Mountain Democrat.

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 05, 2014 - 9:00 pm

    Truth be told, I'm posting this "blast from the past" because THIS YEAR the truth can be told about the issues from nearly 14 (fourteen) years ago. Back then EID had Vargas, Bergmeister and Kastan. They did their best to prevent the acquisition of 184, Sly Park and Hazel creek tunnel. Here is the issue (some of) as it appeared back then ~~~ LINK - Turbulence hits El Dorado water district over power plant effort ~~~ EID is now threatened with round two of Board dysfunction headed up by Al Vargas' successor, Greg Prada. Hold on tight. Were still recovering from the destruction of the last epoch of EID board dysfunction.

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  • HmmmFebruary 08, 2014 - 6:46 am

    The article touches on it just briefly, but another use of the continuing water releases is environmental. Fish flow requirements is the phrase. Downstream, court ordered mandates for releases are draining Folsom and other storage reservoirs. Not surprisingly, activist judges have interjected themselves into the complex water allocation business without full consideration of the impacts. Environmental allocations now exceed agricultural allocations statewide without any change in storage capacity. The pain of government failure and it's bureaucracy impacts everyone and everything. The fish can not and should not be wholly protected from this drought.

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  • Paddy O'furnitureFebruary 07, 2014 - 4:50 am

    Yep, SOFAR is looking pretty good about now. Too bad the environazis killed it. And remember, all that water that flows out of the dams generates hydroelectricity, so that means an added strain on the power grid this summer. I wish that we could water and power ration the lefties first, whose policies and election choices helped get us here.

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  • LakesiderFebruary 07, 2014 - 9:43 am

    Over 650 AF of water are released below White Rock Powerhouse every weekend for rafting (Not under EID control) in the middle of winter with a drought in effect. One would think such waste could be cut back. I haven't seen any rafts out in the cold. I believe EID wants to capture some of the water from the White Rock Penstock. What's more value? Rafting or drinking water?

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  • Simple choice - NO WATER FOR RAFTINGFebruary 07, 2014 - 9:49 am

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  • Jim RiordanFebruary 07, 2014 - 10:46 am

    Having owned our own business since 1979, I find it interesting that the Chamber of Commerce should take out full page ads in this paper to tell Cameron Park residents not to sign the Initiative(s) that could potentially stop developers from adding 17,000 more homes. They seem to focus on the LOS(F) issue, or traffic alone. It appears to me they are avoiding the most important issue. Water folks, water. That's the REAL issue of importance. I ask, why focus on traffic when water is a far more important issue for everyone? If all of those homes are built, with obviously at least twice to four times that many water-using residents on average, what do you suppose the mandatory reductions in water will be then?? What do you think that will do to the price of water? What will those 17,000 homes do for landscaping , Cactus?? The result of not signing this petition will be more traffic and less water, period. So, ask yourselves can you get by on perhaps only 20% of the water you are receiving now?? Not a reduction of 20% . . a total allocation of 20% of what you use now. Could that happen? Take a look at present situation. Ask yourselves do people who want to tell you not to sign the initiative care about you having to live on perhaps only 1/5 of the water you are using now? Traffic is irritating but losing all your landscaping and showering with a teacup full of water is not the picture developers wish to see painted. That is why they are trying make this a "traffic" issue rather than what it should be, a water AND traffic issue. Traffic issues are the back seat debates. Water is the front line issue and cannot be debated away. It is front page news RIGHT NOW and is in your face as you read this. Sorry, "home"-boys, it's here facing us already. No matter how "pretty" the town centers, recreation areas and homes may appear, focus on what is important to you. Water first, traffic second. Just think of what it would be like with 17,000 more water using residences. Think about sitting in traffic while your landscaping withers and your water allocation goes down as your water bills go up. The Chamber apparently wants more business. And they apparently wish to tell you what to do in full page ads. That is what they want. Do you want to stand in longer lines every where you go? I see both sides. I believe everyone should be able to grow their business. I just do not believe it should be at everyone else's expense and suffering. Sign the petitions folks.

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  • EID Declares Stage 2 Drought | Lake Forest Owners AssociationFebruary 07, 2014 - 10:49 am

    […] state 2 level drought emergency, requiring 30 percent voluntary reductions in water consumption.  CLICK HERE to read the full […]

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  • Government Watch dogFebruary 08, 2014 - 8:01 am

    Thank you Jim Riordan for speaking the truth. We cannot afford to have these huge developers come to our county and propose thousands of new homes when we are in a drought. Everyone needs to sign the initiative and stop the madness. This is a WATER ISSUE. Here is something that I have been asking; would EID sell new water meters for future construction during this emergency? Just wondering.

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  • cookie65February 08, 2014 - 11:44 am

    I am not a fan of development, but I question the idea that it matters whether they build the houses in shingle or rancho. The water still runs downhill.

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  • 1036-FrankFebruary 08, 2014 - 10:18 am

    The "Big 3" developers who were behind the Folsom land grab also appear to own a lot of the west county by numerous well hidden purchases, their Folsom annexation south of 50 promised to pipe water up from Sac as a way to sell their annexation, the pipe dream was just that, now they want Lake water from an empty lake, they won't get it so EID looks really good if they can link their developments by placing them on the county lines and tearing out the railroads from South Shingle to Sac County for their new "walking trails" surrounded by lines of stucco houses like Folsom is. This is what they want to add aided by corruption at every level of approval in two counties. They have to be stopped now in this county by the vote of the people. This is just one little area they are trying to add thousands of vehicles to by any means and this added to the others all funneling to Hwy-50 would really destroy what rural is left not to mention there is no water for it or infrastructure.

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