Prada opposes drought emergency declaration

By From page A1 | May 21, 2014

Every meeting of the El Dorado Irrigation District since it declared a drought Feb. 4 has been accompanied by a renewal of “drought emergency declaration.”

After adopting the declaration unanimously at seven different meetings the EID board lost Director Greg Prada’s vote May 12. At that meeting the board voted 3-1 to renew the “drought emergency declaration.” Director Bill George was absent.

Prada objected to wording on page 9 of the resolution relative to exemption from California Environmental Quality Act: “Whereas, CEQA Guidelines section 15359 defines ’emergency’ as ‘a sudden,’ unexpected occurrence, involving a clear and imminent danger, demanding immediate action to prevent or mitigate loss of, or damage to life, health, property, or essential public services…”

“We have more than a year of water,” Prada said, “at least 15 months of water.”

Keying on the words “clear and imminent danger,” he said, “I’m having trouble finding the emergency,” Prada said, asking for “some creative adjustment … so that I can buy this.”

“If we don’t do this we lose access to the state drought fund,” said Director George Osborne.

General Counsel Tom Cumpston reminded the board the governor has declared a drought emergency and required local agencies to conserve water 20 percent. EID unanimously declared a Stage 2 drought emergency Feb. 4 calling for 30 percent conservation.

Cumpston also pointed out that failure to declare an emergency will result in a denial of the district’s application to reduce the amount of treated water released from the Deer Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“The State Water Resources Board (is) going to review district by district. By not adopting this resolution we’re turning things over to the state,” Director Dale Coco said. “We need to conserve every drop of water we can. I don’t know what the problem is. Why would we turn our fate over to the state?”

“In no way am I disavowing Stage 2 water warning,” Prada said. “I tried looking up different definitions of ‘sudden’ and different definitions of ‘imminent.’ I’m sure I’m going to be castigated for being irresponsible. If we’re just going to pass this to be in line for the governor’s funds…”

“If we’re going to present our plan to the State Water Resources Board I would not want to risk that relationship with the state on the definition of ‘imminent’ and ’emergency’ not being found in the dictionary,” said Coco.

Prada’s no vote on the emergency declaration followed a report by Director of Engineering Brian Mueller on “water supply and demand reconciliation” that had been “requested by the board.”

Because such a report relies on firm yield, Muller wrote, “Under this methodology approximately 95 percent of the time sufficient water supply is available to meet normal water demands, but during the remaining 5 percent of the time, water shortages may occur. Such shortages may result in the implementation of voluntary or mandatory conservation measures.”

Mueller pegged the firm yield at 63,500 acre-feet. Actual consumption has been 37,222 acre-feet over the last five years, Mueller said.

System losses were estimated at 55 percent in 1986, 20 percent in the mid-1990s and 13 percent in the mid-2000s. The improvements have been a result of replacing or repairing old and leaking pipelines, reducing spills and overflows, testing water meters to improve accuracy and tracking unbilled demand.

Losses were calculated at 12.1 percent in 2012, but spiked up to 17.9 percent in 2013. Last year had 584 leaks reported compared to 444 for 2012.

“Staff is continuing to investigate the diversion and consumption data, along with the operational uses to ensure we have captured the data accurately, and staff will report back on our findings,” Mueller wrote.

Osborne added that the district has asked the fire agencies not to test the hydrants.

“We have a lot of old infrastructure,” Coco said.

“We still have a fair amount of reserves to get through the year,” Prada said. “Seems we have an emergency to resolve those discrepancies. Either we have MIA (missing in action) water or MIA billed water.”

From the audience, Joe Fuller of Cameron Park said, “I congratulate Director Prada on his ethics,” but he agreed with Director Coco. “We need these grants.”

“I believe we need to continue this (drought  declaration),” Board President Alan Day said. “With 20 percent conservation we’re on a glide path. At this time we’re sending mixed messages.”

“Prudent utility management is to plan for the future,” said General Manager Jim Abercrombie.

Michael Raffety

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