Placer County Water Agency Board approves funding and contracts begin work
Auburn, Calif. – In an important move to secure the region’s water future, the Placer County Water Agency Board of Directors recently approved funding and contracts to begin work on RiverArc. This new project is designed with climate change in mind; it aims to both help ensure a reliable water supply in the region and protect the sensitive environment of the Lower American River.
Droughts are expected to become more common and long-lasting due to climate change. Currently, many water purveyors in the California capital region rely on water from the Lower American River. This becomes a problem during drought because as flows diminish and temperatures grow warmer, native fish species such as Chinook salmon and steelhead trout become threatened.
Shift some demand
RiverArc will shift some of the demand for drinking water supplies to the Sacramento River, California’s largest river, which is less prone to severe shortages during drought. This will ease pressure on the American River’s environment and create more options to recharge groundwater in the region, another essential supply of water in drought years. For PCWA, this means that the Agency will be able to serve future residents in the western most parts of Placer County from the RiverArc facility.
“RiverArc is all about working toward what’s needed today,” said Robert Dugan, PCWA’s board chair. “And it’s also about providing for future generations, and that means both a secure water supply and a healthy environment.”
PCWA signed a memorandum of agreement in 2016 with several other water purveyors to begin work on RiverArc, and the agency was designated as the administering agency for the partnership. This means PCWA oversees planning and securing consultants and contractors to begin the work. Current partners in the program include the City of Sacramento and the Sacramento County Water Agency.
Grant funding & project approvals
In August, PCWA was awarded a $5.1 million grant from the California Wildlife Conservation Board to fund initial design and environmental work on RiverArc. This includes securing project approvals under state and federal law, amending water rights, and paying for program management. During the grant process, the project received support from numerous environmental groups, including The Nature Conservancy, Save the American River Association, and the Environmental Council of Sacramento.
PCWA board actions on Thursday moved this work forward through approving a $3.1 million consulting agreement with West Yost & Associates for program management and engineering services; and a $2.6 million agreement with ICF Jones & Stokes for environmental services. The grant will cover a portion of these expenses, while the remaining amount of $1.2 million will be covered through a local cost-sharing match funded by the RiverArc partners.
All work authorized under the grant is anticipated to be completed by summer of 2026. In the meantime, in addition to the studies and initial design work being done to help prepare environmental documents, outreach efforts will be undertaken to actively seek and confirm involvement from other regional partners interested in partnering in RiverArc.
Since a key component of the project is to shift some existing water rights and contracts, held by the partners, from the American River to the Sacramento River, approval by state and federal regulatory agencies will be required.
Once the shift in water entitlements is approved, water previously diverted from the American River would instead be drawn from the Sacramento River, through an existing intake owned by the Natomas Mutual Water Company, located near Sacramento International Airport. This intake was recently modernized with state-of-the-art fish screens to protect wildlife during diversions.
The project also includes new pipelines to share Sacramento River water between the partners, and a new regional treatment plant.
Learn more about the RiverArc project.