Region’s water under threat

Supes hear call for coalition to fight lobbyists
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County has plenty of water and that’s creating increasing challenges to keep it, a Placer County Water Agency told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. The water agency is attempting to galvanize support for a regional effort to fight a new round of proposals for the Delta that Strategic Affairs Director Einar Maisch said pose serious risks to the water supplies, economy, environment and quality of life in the Sacramento region and Northern California. Maisch showed a slide of a nearly dry reservoir at Folsom and posed the question whether that will be “our future?” The water agency board recently adopted a resolution seeking regional collaboration on a solution and is seeking a similar resolution from the Board of Supervisors. The board heard Maisch’s presentation Tuesday and asked staff to place the agency’s resolution request on a future agenda. The proposed resolution calls on any solution for the Delta water supply to be based on “sound science” and one that doesn’t shift any negative economic, environmental or societal impacts to areas in the Sacramento region. The regional water coalition would include the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, the Northern California Water Association and the Mountain Counties Water Resources Association. Maisch outlined the water agency’s perspective on current water challenges – including what he said are ongoing attempts from Southern California water providers to gradually change water laws. “There are few unused water supplies,” Maisch said. “Placer County’s is one of them.” With the ecology of the Delta in collapse, economies are in danger, including the urban-development industry in Southern California, he said. Several plans already in effect or being proposed are threatening regional water supplies, Maisch said. They include legislation that requires Placer County Water Agency to impose a 20 percent water conservation target while Los Angeles is expected to conserve 5 percent more of its water. Lowell Jarvis, Auburn’s representative on the water agency board, told supervisors that mountain counties are threatened with losing their water rights. “Southern California interests have multiple lobbyists working to change the water dynamic every day in California,” Jarvis said. Key concerns over the so-called Delta Plan include the breadth of geographic coverage, Maisch said. Instead of taking in just the Delta, the plan’s coverage area takes in the Sacramento Valley past Redding and considers impacts on downstream users such as San Diego and Los Angeles. Maisch said the plan also has the capacity to impinge on local land-use authority and restrict water rights. Asked by Supervisor Kirk Uhler about the possibility of finding ways to hold back some more of the water that now flows into the ocean, Maisch said that water today is a “zero sum game,” with the possibility of any new reservoirs being constructed a remote one. “There’s a whole lot of water but not a lot of reservoir sites that haven’t been developed,” Maisch said. The best one is the Auburn dam but since the U.S. Bureau wasn’t able to retain water rights for it, the prospects are remote that it will be built, Maisch said. “The project was at Step 2 or 3 but now it’s back to Step 1,” he said. “Is there water? Yes. But is it practical to build it? I don’t think so.”