Water rights on GDPUD’s mind

By From page A1 | October 14, 2013

Locking in the district’s water rights came up at the Oct. 8 board meeting of the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District (GDPUD).

Interim General Manager Gary Hoffmann reported that in November, 2010, the district sent a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) requesting the issuance of Water Rights Licenses for two water rights’ permits. He noted that so far, the SWRCB has not responded to the request.

“That’s three years the state has not responded to our request,” said Director Norm Krizl. “That’s customer service.”

Hoffmann added that the lack of response doesn’t affect the district’s ability to use the water or its rights to the water but getting a license is the last step in the process of securing those rights.

General Counsel Barbara Brenner asked about the expiration date of the permits, saying she assumed the letter was sent before the permits expired. She said the issue will probably sit there unnoticed unless the district becomes more proactive, given that the SWRCB is something of a “black hole.” A California Environmental Quality Act review will probably be involved and SWRCB will need to do an evaluation including a site visit and ensuring all the district’s water is being put to beneficial use.

“The fact that they haven’t responded within three years is mind-boggling to say the least,” said Krizl. “This is a very big deal and we shouldn’t sit and wait to hear from them. We need to ask them what we need to do to get this moving. This trumps all this other stuff. If we can’t formalize our water rights, we run into some jeopardies down the road,” Krizl said, noting that pursuing the district’s water rights is timely given the state’s plans to send more water south.

Hoffman added that it was common for it to take years to go from a permit to a license.

But Brenner reiterated that if the district is putting all its water to productive use, there was no reason to wait and they should push for the license.

Interim General Manager Gary Hoffmann also reported that the California Department of Public Health conducted an inspection of their facilities in February with their findings issued in August. The report noted the continuing non-compliance with the requirement to reduce Giardia by 99.9 percent and viruses by 99.99 percent at the Auburn Lake Trails Water Treatment Plant. Hoffman said the existing filtration process is not approved by CDPH, so it is not given any credit for Giardia, cryptosporidium or virus removal. The report also noted inadequate reporting of the number of backflow prevention assemblies in the distribution system and overdue monitoring of the raw water sources for naturally occurring fluoride.

Upgrades to the required billing system have been put in place which allow customers to pay their bills online through the district’s Website. Customers can make electronic payments either by automatic withdrawals from their checking accounts or by using a credit card. Additionally customers can sign up for automatic bill payment and e-mail billing notifications. The changes went into effect Oct. 10.

New meter reading equipment will also be used for the first time in October. The devices allow automatic downloading of the water use data directly into the district’s computer billing system.

Hoffmann reported the district is still waiting for Psomas to submit a proposal addressing the costs and benefits of potential design changes to the Auburn Lake Trails Water Treatment Plant Retrofit Project. Psomas is the engineering firm that designed the plant. At the same time, district staff are working with the California Rural Water Association in preparing a loan application to the California Department of Public Health before the Dec. 20 deadline.

GDPUD is expected to be the recipient of an annual payment as a result of the relicensing of SMUD’s Upper American River Project. SMUD was required to pay El Dorado County $590,000 within 30 days of the date the license was issued, which was June 6. GDPUD is entitled to $90,000 of that amount. To date, GDPUD hasn’t received its share of the relicensing fee and the El Dorado County Water Agency has yet to respond to the district’s inquiry regarding the payment. The payout period is expected to be over 50 years.

A second round of interviews were held for the position of office manager. Hoffmann said he expects to make a hiring decision this week or next.

GDPUD ended August with cash and investments of $8.3 million, which includes restricted and unrestricted funds.

The board approved a contract with ECORP Consultants for $32,320 annually for stream gage monitoring and reporting services, a $7,200 annual contract with Holdrege & Kull for groundwater monitoring quarterly reporting, and a purchase of $30,000 in materials from Reed and Graham for slope repairs.

The board approved the contracts without seeing them, although in the past, directors Kathy Otermat, Maria Capraun and Bonnie McLane had repeatedly criticized the previous general manager for the same thing.

Hoffmann reported the waterline relocation project near Cat Bird Hill Lane has been completed, allowing Caltrans to proceed with planned roadwork.

The next regular meeting of the board will be on Nov. 12 at 9 a.m. at district headquarters.

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

Dawn Hodson

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