Wednesday, July 23, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Stage 4 drought for Outingdale

By
From page A1 | June 02, 2014 |

A letter was due to be mailed Friday to El Dorado Irrigation District customers in Outingdale restricting them to 68 gallons of water per person per day.

The action includes declaring a Stage 4 Drought Emergency for the 191 customers in Outingdale.

General Manager Jim Abercrombie announced that action Friday morning as a result of a water rights curtailment letter from the State Water Resources Control Board dated May 27 that arrived in the mail at EID May 29. Abercrombie will ask the Board of Directors to ratify that action when it meets June 9.

The key order from the SWRCB is headlined “Curtailment of post-1914 water rights,” with the specific order underlined: “With this notice, the State Water Board is notifying all holders of post-1914 appropriative water rights within the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds of the need to immediately stop diverting under their post-1914 water rights…”

Failure to comply can result in fines of $1,000 a day and $2,500 “for each acre-foot diverted or used in excess of a valid water right.” Should the SWRCB issue a cease and desist order, the fines can go up to $10,000 per day.

EID is required to fill out a curtailment form online within seven days.

Outingdale, which gets its water from a diversion dam on the Middle Fork of the Cosumnes River, is the most severely affected by the state’s curtailment order. The Stage 4 limit of 68 gallons per person per day equals 553 cubic feet per person per bimonthly billing or 1,100 cubic feet bimonthly for a two-person household.

The other effect from the curtailment order will be a loss of 350 acre-feet that is post-1914 water in Lake Aloha. It will not affect the 15,080 acre-feet EID gets for water consumption, but will affect the hydroelectric generation. The lake holds 5,000 acre-feet of water, all of which is pre-1914 water rights except for the 350 acre-feet. As of May 29 Lake Aloha was 89 percent full at 4,346 acre feet. That leaves 654 acre-feet before it reaches 100 percent full, but only 304 acre-feet before it reaches 350 acre-feet short of being full; at that point it must release everything that enters the reservoir.

Lake Aloha and three other alpine reservoirs are part of Project 184, a federally licensed hydroelectric project  EID bought in 1999. The water rights for that project were secured in 1856 and the canals and flumes – now 22 miles long — were originally completed in 1876.

The other reservoirs are full or nearly full. Echo Lake is at 101 percent of capacity, Silver Lake is at 102 percent of capacity and Caples Lake is at 89 percent of capacity — all as of May 29.

The curtailment order “goes far beyond what I expected,” EID General Counsel Tom Cumpston told the Mountain Democrat May 30.

“The information isn’t complete,” Abercrombie said. The water board’s letter to EID listed water rights that were incomplete or erroneous.

The major post-1914 water right is Jenkinson Lake at Sly Park, but the inflow has dried up and the lake is as full as it will be for this year. In fact, its level started dropping, according to the May 22 report. May 29 it had last declined to 71 percent of capacity at 29,148 acre-feet. It would have been 21,000 acre-feet had not EID transferred 4,000 acre-feet of Project 184 water into Jenkinson Lake via the Hazel Creek Tunnel.

EID has been in a Stage 2 Drought Emergency since Feb. 4. It has been pumping all the water from Folsom Lake that it is authorized. The 15,080 acre-feet of Project 184 water taken from Forebay can be used to supply water all the way to El Dorado Hills. Abercrombie said he is trying to use those two sources first and save as much as possible in Sly Park to carry over to next year. His goal is 25,000 acre-feet of carryover in Jenkinson Lake in case of a second dry year.

The real fear for Cumpston and Abercrombie is “the next shoe that’s going to drop,” as Cumpston put it. That would be the underlined portion of page 2 of the curtailment letter from the State Water Rights Control Board: “If current conditions persist, the State Water Board may curtail some pre-1914 and riparian water rights in the near future.”

Cumpston questioned the water board’s mass curtailment action.

“They’re supposed to cut the junior water rights holders sequentially. The State Water Board offered no evidence of water needs. I don’t believe they are following water law,” Cumpston said.

“Their concern is the Delta,” Cumpston said, adding that for every gallon the district sends into Folsom Lake that will all be used for releases to maintain flows in the Delta. “Folsom is junior to us and will be getting the benefit” (of senior water rights if forced to send pre-1914 water rights downstream), Cumpston said.

“In my opinion this is not legal,” Cumpston said.

For the past two weeks both Folsom and Shasta have been letting out twice as much water than is coming in and have dropped their levels about 2 percentage points each.

“If our pre-1914 rights are curtailed the whole picture changes,” Cumpston said.

“We don’t have any other options,” Abercrombie said. “The valley guys can go to ground water.”

The foothills have no underground reservoirs.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District reported the following for its 688-megawatt Upper American River Project: “It is our understanding that we are not be affected by the curtailment order.  We base this on the following language of the order, if “your diversion is for hydroelectric generation and all water diverted is returned to the stream, you may continue to divert under your post-1914 permit or license,” wrote David Hanson, SMUD project manager for hydro relicensing, Friday.

On Monday, June 2, Grant J. Winslow, hydrographer, generation design, responded to the same Friday e-mail enquiry: “We are told that we cannot store any more water in our reservoirs. So we will have to pass any new inflow through the system to Folsom Lake. Since Loon and Ice House are nearly full, it doesn’t impact them. Although Union Valley reservoir is only 83 percent full to date, the snowmelt runoff is nearly over anyway. However, to not allow SMUD to store any additional water has a big impact on Buck Island, Rockbound, and Rubicon reservoirs. Since we won’t be able to lower the gates at Buck-Loon and Rockbound tunnels, it is very likely that we will not be able to meet the instream flow releases below Buck Island and Rubicon reservoirs through the summer and fall. It is crucial that we lower the gates within the next two-three weeks or we won’t be able to have enough water to meet these instream releases. Meeting these releases will be dictated solely on runoff from rainfall events.”

Outingdale is in Director Greg Prada’s Division. Prada represents the northern portion of Cameron Park, Shingle Springs and the Valley View subdivision east of Latrobe Road. The rest of the district is primarily rural consisting of 5-acre or larger parcels south of Highway 50, south of Green Valley Road, including Oak Hill Road and the west side of Bucks Bar Road.

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Michael Raffety

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