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Auburn, Calif- Last week (April 25), the Placer County Water Agency sent a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board urging it to seriously consider upstream mountain county water needs as part of its Bay-Delta planning process.

PCWA General Manager David A. Breninger said, “The proposed outcome of the State Water Board’s planning actions for the California Delta will have profound impacts.  It is imperative that the State understands the full ramifications and fully mitigates for its intended actions.  The State intends to require increased springtime surface water from the Sierra Nevada to bypass local water storage reservoirs and instead have it flow to the Delta thus sacrificing water supplies important to Placer County.”

“Conditions no longer exist as they once did in the California Delta.  It is a vastly altered waterway and eco-system.  A far different paradigm exists today than a century ago.  Existing conditions in California require a far greater balancing strategy for Sierra water than simply shipping more of it to the Delta at the ultimate expense of Sierra area-of-origin counties,” said Breninger.

PCWA’s letter offers several specific recommendations to the State Water Board as it opens an environmental review scoping and analysis phase to develop a new Delta flow objective.

These are:

  1. The State must include the impacts to upstream mountain counties’ tributaries of the Delta in its analysis. “PCWA is extremely concerned that the State’s proposal to greatly increase Sierra water flows to the Delta will have significant adverse impacts on local water supply reliability for consumptive use, hydroelectric power generation, and fish habitat,” said Breninger.
  2. The State must acknowledge and realize there are limited water supply alternatives to mountain counties such as Placer County. “Sierra foothill communities heavily rely on storing springtime Sierra water in reservoirs for year-round water supply reliability as there is inadequate groundwater available and very limited access to recycled water. And water suppliers, such as PCWA, have long worked with customers to use water wisely so as to conserve what limited surface water is available,” said Breninger.
  3. Impacts on hydroelectric power production in California must be addressed in any increase in flows to the Delta. “Curtailing springtime runoff of Sierra surface water to storage reservoirs in order to provide more flow to the Delta will greatly reduce water available for clean and efficient hydroelectric generation. This will be especially true during the hot summer months when power is needed the most to meet peak demands, which will increase dependence upon fossil fuels and likely raise electricity costs,” said Breninger.
  4. Impacts on groundwater in the Sacramento Valley basin must be addressed and mitigated if less Sierra surface water can be stored. “Dramatically changed flow regimes to benefit the Delta will force more dependence on groundwater usage, especially among farmers in the Central Valley, including west Placer County. This will increase use of energy and costs to pump groundwater and add to air quality and groundwater basin reliability concerns,” said Breninger.
  5. The State must consider and balance flow alternatives based on sustaining overall upstream habitats-not just the Delta ecosystem. PCWA, with other agencies and with the endorsement of state and federal officials, worked over many years to develop science based standards to sustain fish and wildlife habitat through various agreements reached on tributaries of the American and Yuba Rivers. “These watershed-specific strategies will be needlessly compromised, if not invalidated by new Delta flow objectives being considered by the State,” said Breninger.

“The State Water Board should honor these balanced flow objectives in the tributaries to the Delta where they have been forged,” Breninger concluded, “and apply the same science and stakeholder involvement in adopting flow objectives for the proposed updated Delta plan in areas where this has not been undertaken.”

The State Water Resources Control Board will host a series of workshops in the months ahead as it takes comments and testimony to develop water flow objectives for a new Bay-Delta Water Quality Plan. The new State Plan is anticipated in 2013 or 2014.

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