As a 40-year customer on the East Diamond Ditch, I read with interest your article entitled “EID ditch customers get relief,” which appeared on the front page of the Wednesday, July 23, 2014, issue of your paper.
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This story gloriously paints the staff and Board of Directors of EID as knights on white horses riding to rescue us. In reality, it more resembles what the horses drop along the way.
EID did not have to cut off the water to the East Diamond Ditch in early June of this year as a result of a letter from the state of California regarding post-1914 water rights. In fact, they had several alternatives, five of which came to my mind immediately.
Alternative 1 — Cut off all the flow of water to Clear Creek and the ditch system (which includes not only the ditches, but Squaw Hollow Creek and Martinez Creek) as the letter reportedly said, which they did not do.
Alternative 2 — Provide 1 cubic foot per second (cfs) of aesthetic water to Clear Creek and dump the remainder into the North Fork of the Cosumnes River, arguing that they needed to do so to protect the flora and fauna in Clear Creek, which they did do.
Alternative 3 — Continue the flow into Clear Creek and the ditch system, claiming that they needed to confer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as to potential damage to flora and fauna before stopping any flow to the ditch system, which they did not do.
Alternative 4 — Continue the flow into Clear Creek and the ditch system under the “health and safety” exemption in the letter from the state of California, stating that the water in the ditch provided customers and others with water for fire protection, which they did not do.
Alternative 5 — Supplement the flow in Clear Creek and the ditch system with “storage water” while sitting down with their customers and coming up with an agreeable compromise, which they did not do.
In selecting Alternative 2 from the list, they made a discretionary decision and, as we all know, a discretionary decision by an agency such as EID is subject to the California Environmental Act, something that they completely ignored. That is something your paper and many others should be concerned about!
Let me take a bit of time to give you the history of this ditch system, the only remaining portion of which is the Crawford Ditch and the East Diamond Ditch.
This ditch system is a part of the original Diamond Springs Ditch, also known as the Ringgold Ditch, Bradley and Berdan & Co. Ditch, the Cosumnes and Diamond Springs Water Company Ditch and perhaps other names.
According to an article in the Jan. 17, 1853, Sacramento Daily Union, the idea for this ditch originated in 1850, the same year California became a State in the Union.
By 1852 it was filled with water from Squaw (Hollow) Creek, which was supplemented the same year with water from Camp Creek, which flowed through Sly Park and Clear Creek before being directed into Squaw Hollow Creek. Interestingly, this is the same way it came to us before being turned off.
Given this information, how they can claim the water rights to Camp Creek are post-1914, is beyond me.
Back to the history. In 1938 EID purchased a majority of the stock in the Diamond Ridge Water Co., along with its water rights.
The ditches owned by Diamond Ridge Water Co. included, among others, the Crawford, East Diamond and other ditches serving Diamond Springs, El Dorado and as far south as Logtown on Highway 49.
The water rights owned by Diamond Ridge Water Co. included most if not all of the water rights EID has to the Cosumnes drainage, including Camp Creek, the Cosumnes River and Jenkinson Lake.
One can find the deed from Diamond Ridge Water Co. to the El Dorado Irrigation District recorded in Book 168 at Page 53 of the Official Records of El Dorado County. It is a document stating the opinion of the Railroad Commission of the State of California, now known as the Public Utilities Commission.
At that time, before a water system could be transferred it needed the approval of the state’s Railroad Commission.
In paragraph 6 of that document it states:
“The testimony shows that the water system is in a rundown condition. The properties have for many years past been operated at a loss. The Company (Diamond Ridge Water Company) has no funds to make repairs and replacements. On the other hand, the District (EID) is undertaking the repair of the company’s ditch system. It will supply water to all of the Company’s consumers at rates which presently are below the rates charged by the Company. The District also has plans to construct a dam at Sly Park, which would store 12,700 acres feet of water. It is believed that the improvements to the ditch system will make it possible to deliver to the present consumers continuous water supply in the quantities set out in the agreement.”
If you are interested, said agreement is recorded in Book 162 at Page 215 of the Official Records of El Dorado County. It was also modified by the above opinion.
In summary, EID purchased the Diamond Ridge Water Co. along with its water rights and agreed to provide water to its customers, including a commitment of water from the 12,700 acre feet stored in Sly Park.
So, we got “relief” by being graciously provided with water from the storage which had already been committed to us? How interesting.
Finally, when I was the assistant planning director for El Dorado County in the late 1970s and early 1980s, on several occasions I asked various people from EID why they didn’t replace the ditch system, which according to them (and later the 2005 Grand Jury), was a losing proposition. The answer was always the same, “We are afraid that we might lose the water rights we obtained by purchasing the ditch system if we cut off the water to it.”
On June 9 of this year the staff of EID reported to their board that there was no water flowing west of Mt. Aukum Road. Thus, the ditch system was cut off. Are the water rights now in limbo?
In conclusion, EID has been wanting to get rid of the burden of the ditch system for many years and has been very vocal about it. They seized what they thought was an opportunity to do so, but then realized that they had awakened the proverbial “sleeping tiger,” and threw a bone to us in the form of a limited amount of their precious storage water. They are far from being your knights on white horses.
Doug Noble is a Placerville resident and former assistant planning director for El Dorado County.