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Auburn, Calif.- The Placer County Water Agency is expressing serious concerns over a Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) plan to reorganize operations of the PG&E Drum-Spaulding Project, which is a sole source of water for many Placer County residents.

PCWA Director of Resource Development Andy Fecko recently briefed the agency Board of Directors on the PG&E proposal and its potential impacts on local water supplies.

The agency’s concerns center on a federal power license amendment filed by PG&E in May with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The amendment seeks to split the Drum-Spaulding Project into two parts; the section above Rollins Reservoir, and the section below.

“They haven’t told us why they want to separate the project,” said Fecko, “but should PG&E decide to divest itself of one or both of the projects, it is imperative that the obligation to serve Placer residents from the Drum-Spaulding system remain in place.”

“This water source and the associated water rights were developed well before PG&E developed their hydroelectric system and have supplied Placer County for more than 100 years,” said Fecko.

“Our interest is in making sure we preserve these rights and protect local control of the water delivery systems that supply our customers. The last thing we need is for a third party that does not understand the responsibilities of water delivery to Placer County to take over PG&E’s lower Drum hydroelectric system.”

PG&E has been seeking a new federal power license for the Drum-Spaulding Project since 2005 and PCWA has been an active participant in the process in order to ensure that adequate water supply protections, as well as environmental enhancements, would be part of the new license. This year’s PG&E amendment application came as a surprise, Fecko said, adding, “This is a critical new variable to the 2012 licensing agreement that PG&E reached with all stakeholders.”

PCWA’s concerns over the amendment application are addressed in comments to the federal government’s draft environmental impact statement on the Drum-Spaulding relicensing. PCWA’s comments, filed with the FERC on Aug. 22, ask for additional water supply protections.

“Staff believes it is in the agency’s best interest for PG&E to retain both the upper and lower projects so they can fulfill their responsibility as a wholesale water supplier,” Fecko said. “We believe that PG&E holds their water rights in trust for the people of Placer and Nevada counties.”

The Drum-Spaulding Project was formed through consolidation of local reservoir and canal projects developed in the late 1800s by Placer and Nevada County residents on the South Yuba River and its tributaries. The largest feature of these early projects was Spaulding Reservoir, built by John Spaulding and the South Yuba Water Company to serve the local mining efforts and thereafter to serve the booming farm and ranch country in west Placer. Many of the features of the early water projects and original water rights are still in service today.

In other business, directors:

  •  welcomed David Guy, president of the Northern California Water Association (NCWA), who offered presentations on drought preparedness and sustainability of north state water supplies in face of increased downstream demand.  The NCWA, with a current membership of 70, was founded in 1991 to protect Northern California water rights and supplies.  
  • welcomed Tamra West, president of the Foresthill Public Utility District Board of Directors, who introduced Hank White, the district’s new general manager.  White brings a 20-year background in special district management, including 12 years with the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District in El Dorado County.


PCWA board meetings are open to the public.

Information on PCWA board meetings may be obtained through the Clerk to the Board at (530) 823-4850 or (800) 464-0030.