Auburn, Calif. – At its October 15 meeting, the Placer County Water Agency (PCWA) Board of Directors received a staff report on the ongoing operational and environmental impacts of the 2014 King Fire, which burned more than 97,000 acres.
PCWA Senior Environmental Scientist Ben Ransom presented the Board with a series of watershed photographs following a rain event earlier this month.
“Nearly two inches of rain eroded the burn area forcing downed trees and topsoil into the Rubicon River,” Ransom explained. “The debris slides moved with such force that they temporarily dammed the river and even spread upstream. The result is high levels of turbidity and sedimentation in the water.”
In addition to the environmental degradation, the Board of Directors expressed concern over the financial impacts. PCWA and other local agencies spent $8 million to repair and protect water and energy infrastructure immediately after the fire. Costs for 2016 could reach $10 million, and continue for years.
“It is important to remember that the costs aren’t simply related to cleanup,” PCWA Director of Resource Development Andy Fecko said. “There is also the problem of reduced capacity in our hydropower operations. On top of $3-5 million in direct costs, we anticipate another $3-5 million in indirect costs, due to lost power generation.”
District 4 Director Robert Dugan added, “It’s not right that our rate payers are left dealing with the impacts of fires they have no control over. I wholeheartedly support Agency efforts to engage the federal government and seek reimbursement for the long-term costs associated with this fire, and I commend staff for their efforts.”
The facilities at Ralston Afterbay (Ralston Dam/Reservoir, Oxbow and Ralston powerhouses) are most at risk. Debris could fill the reservoir, and negatively affect water release and hydropower generation. In an effort to mitigate potential hazards, log booms are in place across the reservoir to contain floating debris, and equipment is in place to remove logs or pass them safely through the gates of the dam.
In other news, PCWA Directors:
– Approved Agency sponsorship of the annual Placer Conservator Award Dinner presented by Placer Land Trust. The event takes place on Thursday, October 22 at the Blue Goose Event Center in Loomis and recognizes an individual or group that enhances the quality of life in Placer County through resource conservation.
– Approved a contract to improve cyber security for the Agency. The work will help secure the PCWA network from cyber threats by ensuring compliance with new cyber security requirements and standards.
The next regular meeting of the PCWA Board of Directors will be held on Thursday, November 5, 2015, 2:00 PM, at the PCWA Business Center, 144 Ferguson Road, in Auburn. PCWA Board meetings are open to the public.
For more information on PCWA Board meetings, please contact the Clerk to the Board at (530) 823-4850 or (800) 464-0030.