Bear River canal break to affect 4,800 customers, water agency managers say

By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A Tuesday morning break in the PG&E Bear River Canal could impact 4,800 Placer County Water Agency and Nevada Irrigation District customers in the greater Auburn area. Dave Breninger, general manager of PCWA, said PG&E notified the water company of the break Tuesday morning. Breninger said the break occurred in an area near Colfax High School. “We understand that the side of the bottom of the canal blew out,” Breninger said. “Obviously then that spilled all the water out of the canal and ceased to send the water further downstream to where PCWA would have the water … taken to our water plants.” Paul Moreno, spokesman for PG&E, said the canal provides water to PCWA customers as well as customers in the Nevada Irrigation District. Moreno said at 1:20 a.m. Tuesday morning the first alarm that water levels were low sounded. By 4:30 a.m. water flow was cut off in the canal and by 5:45 a.m. PG&E crews discovered the break. “The break occurred early this morning … in a remote canyon near Colfax,” Moreno said. “A slide occurred below a portion of PG&E’s Bear River Canal causing a portion of it to break and divert water from the canal down the steep hill to the Bear River. PG&E is investigating the cause of the slide.” The canal was investigated April 1 and no issues were discovered, but heavy rain could have contributed to the slide, Moreno said. Breninger said the break could affect 4,000 ditch customers, who use the water for their yards and to water livestock. The impact area is in service zone 1 and runs along the Auburn Folsom corridor, along the Highway 193 corridor and into the Loomis Basin and Rocklin, Breninger said. The water agency is hoping water in customers’ homes won’t be affected. “We are hoping that for the treated water customers, and I believe we have about 35,000 of them, that we will be able to sustain our treated drinking water supplies unabated,” he said. “However, we would ask people to use water efficiency practices so we can all share together in having adequate water for everybody during this emergency.” After learning of the break, PCWA took immediate action and began pumping water from the American River to make up for some shortages, according to a Tuesday afternoon PCWA press release. Breninger said PG&E has informed them that it could take four to eight weeks to fully restore service to the canal. Moreno said the exact date of complete repairs is not known at this point. “We need to engineer the repair work and get permit approvals from state and federal agencies,” he said. “We are expediting this process to resume water deliveries as soon as possible.” Breninger said the company has plans to use methods to conserve water until the canal is repaired, including alternating days of water being available to customers. “We are working on a rotating system now, which frankly is not too different from what we would do when we have a planned regular outage along our canal system,” he said. Ron Nelson, general manager of the Nevada Irrigation District, said about 800 of the company’s irrigation customers could be affected. “That is the range we are looking at right now,” Nelson said. “It’s unlikely it will affect any of our treated water customers.” Nelson said NID is going to continue to meet with PCWA to decide what its options are. For news on the situation and a map of the affected area visit, which will be updated as the situation continues. Anyone with questions or concerns can call the agency at (530) 823-4850. Reach Bridget Jones at ------------------------------------------------------ If you are a PCWA or NID customer without water contact Bridget Jones at (530) 852-0235 or