Water outages cause for concern in greater Auburn area

Two men say they haven’t had water since the Bear River Canal broke April 19
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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With the Placer County Water Agency continuing 24-hour outages for many of its greater Auburn area irrigation customers after an April 19 Bear River Canal break, residents and business owners are speaking out about how less water is impacting their lives. Bill Artery, who lives off Auburn Folsom Road on Lees Lane near Newcastle, said he hasn’t had water since the day the canal break occurred. “I called the number that I received on a letter from the PCWA … last Thursday, and I reported the outage,” Artery said. “And I hadn’t had water in about eight days, and they said yes they checked and our water would be turned on at 4 p.m. Thursday (April 28) afternoon.” Artery said Tuesday afternoon he still didn’t have water. Mike Nichol, director of field services for PCWA, said Tuesday morning the outage was occurring because of a block in Artery’s particular part of the Gaylord Canal system and that the company was fixing the problem. Artery said he and his two neighboring families have been carrying water from their wells to water their pastures and animals. “It’s much tougher to monitor it because you just never know when the water levels are going to get so low (the animals) can’t get at the water, so you have to make sure every morning when you get up there is water in the tanks. Actually all three of us down here have just planted our gardens for the year and no irrigation.” Artery said the lack of water to keep pastures from drying up is a concern, because a year ago a fire started in his neighbor’s pasture, which spread to his pasture. Lara Hawthorne, owner of Sierra View Nursery in Loomis, said cutbacks to her water supply could cause her to shut her doors. “There is the possibility,” Hawthorne said. “I just got word back from my insurance. Of course they don’t cover that sort of thing, and I stand to lose a significant amount of my inventory.” On Thursday PCWA is beginning alternating 24-hour outages in the Loomis Basin. Hawthorne said she doesn’t think she can recover from a loss of half her normal amount of water. “Over half of my sales each year are based on my inventory, so last year what I sold out of my inventory was close to $200,000,” she said. “So, if I lose half, $100,000, (that) will definitely put me under. There is no way I can handle that. I don’t have any cash to go out and buy new inventory. I have a lot of expensive inventory, a lot of nice maples. But I’m hoping to get many of them shipped out on Thursday.” Hawthorne said she doesn’t even have the staff to handle extra customers who might come in to buy more inventory than normal. Earle Eisley, owner of Eisley Nursery in Auburn, said his business is currently on alternating 24-hour outages. Eisley said disturbance, including debris, impacts his ditch frequently, so the nursery has three 10,000 tanks to store as much water as possible when outages occur. During day-long outages, the tanks are emptied. “It’s not something new that we don’t have water for a day, but this, of course, is much worse,” Eisley said. Eisley said nursery staff are hand-watering their inventory now to keep waste to a minimum. “We don’t know the end result of this, of course,” Eisley said. “It is to say the least scary to us, because when we had the drought before, we had to let a third of our nursery dry up. This is almost like a drought expect every other day we get water. I hope PG&E will get on the ball and fix the problem.” Auburn resident Donald West, who also lives off Auburn Folsom Road, said he hasn’t had water since the break, and he checked the pipe that feeds off his canal system and couldn’t find any problems. “I don’t think PG&E is taking this as seriously as the Placer County Water Agency,” West said. West said he was unhappy with how long it is taking to get construction started. West said he uses the water to irrigate his pasture, which in turn feeds his livestock. “I’m just a small guy, but some of the rice growers out there in Lincoln, it’s changing their way of life.” Leslie Gray lives on Ridge Road in Newcastle and said she has five acres of property. “We have what seems to be about 10 percent of our normal water every other day only,” Gray said. “It is not enough to run any sprinklers, it is enough to water with a hose with low pressure. If this shortage persists we will likely lose our pasture and much of our landscaping. We are fortunate to have a well for our household and drinking water, but it is low capacity and not sufficient to use for any type of irrigation.” Dave Breninger, general manager of PCWA, said the agency encourages all customers to call them with concerns about outages as the company attempts to provide as much support as possible during the water shortage. Reach Bridget Jones at