Higher-profile Placer Water race touches down in Auburn

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Placer County Water Agency’s three District 5 candidates weighed in Tuesday on how they would deal with the threat of a Southern California water grab. Placer County has area-of-origin water rights in the Sierra and storage that can provide more-than-adequate supplies for local customers in normal years. Candidates Otis Wollan, Cheryl Maki and Josh Alpine were asked during Tuesday’s Auburn Chamber of Commerce Chamber Forum how they would work to protect Placer County Water Agency’s water from flowing south. Alpine's reply concentrated on projecting development decisions out to provide a clearer idea of the county’s future water needs. Wollan said that the agency needs to avoid being a water hoarder. Maki said she’ll continue a firm stance exemplified by current Water Agency leaders on holding onto water rights. Alpine, a Colfax City Councilman, said that part of his protection plan would be to strengthen and expand current water delivery systems while sizing up growth. “The way that I would work in protecting our water for future needs is really in the general plan and LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) process and actually drawing the projections out for growth in our business needs,” Alpine said. Alpine said he also questioned statements that the agency has accurate water storage. “We have to get water to the western part of the county to our agricultural interests and there is a lot of talk about population expansion and growth in our county,” Alpine said. “We have to get water out there.” Wollan, who served on the water board from 1987 until four years ago, said the agency’s water right is “very solid” but it has to continue to demonstrate to the rest of the state that it’s willing to share water it isn’t using. “We have a real water right for 120,000 acre feet on the Middle Fork of the American River,” Wollan said. “But you don’t get to be a hoarder – you’ve got to be a player. You have to be in the market or else you’ll be viewed as a solo player and a hoarder.” Wollan also highlighted the work he did starting three years ago to bring county government leaders onboard opposing the Garden Bar-Bear River dam effort. “Supervisors said that’s a Southern California water raid on our land and we don’t want anything to do with it,” Wollan said. “They helped kill the project.” Maki, a former Auburn City Councilwoman, said that she was in agreement with Water Agency policies when she recently attended a Mountain Counties Water Agencies Association water forum that included a panel with Breninger and a Metropolitan Water Agency representative from Southern California. “Dave was very firm, very strong – and I’ll repeat what he said: That while we feel for Southern California, we cannot, will not, be a mitigation for them by letting the Middle Fork become water storage for Southern California,” Maki said. “We need to protect our supplies; we need to protect our storage.”