Ditch easement abandoned; water rights detailed

By Michael Raffety

Mountain Democrat 4-30-14

A quit claim to an easement for the Summerfield Ditch was approved April 28 by the El Dorado Irrigation District Board of Directors.

The release of a segment of the ditch to Collins and Judith Smith was approved as part of the consent calendar. The staff report, however, included some fascinating history of the Summerfield Ditch, built in 1854 by James Summerfield. Summerfield’s ditch ran 21 miles from Slab Creek to Mosquito Valley. In 1889, he filed his original water right with the County Recorder, noting it was 500 miner’s inches.

Section 24 of the California Water Code defines a standard miner’s inch as equivalent to 11.22 gallons per minute, or 1.5 cubic feet per second. That is how it is calculated in Northern California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon and Montana.

Five hundred miner’s inches would equal 5,610 gallons per minute. EID called that 12 cfs in the staff report on the Summerfield Ditch.

Summerfield made a second recording in 1905 claiming 300 miner’s inches from Slab Creek, which EID calculated at 7.5 cfs. In 1906, Summerfield sold his water rights to Western States Electric Co., which used it to fill Finnon Lake. Western States used Finnon Lake as sort of a forebay and backup supply for its hydroelectric operation at the confluence of Rock Creek and the South Fork of the American River. Westerrn States was acquired by PG&E, which in 1939 sold the ditch for $1 to three farmers who formed the Mosquito Ditch Mutual Water Co.

On Sept. 30, 1990, Mosquito Ditch Mutual transferred title and water rights to EID. In July 1999, EID used a well to serve the remaining ditch customers and made a “temporary transfer” of these pre-1914 water rights to Folsom Lake in 2003. In 2010, that transfer was made permanent, along with water rights from the Gold Hill Ditch tapping into Hangtown Creek, the Farmers Free Ditch from Weber Creek and Weber Dam on Weber Creek, which was EID’s first reservoir project. That totals 4,560 acre-feet of water, but 3,000 in a dry year.

These senior water rights now serve El Dorado Hills, accommodating development there and lessening EID’s reliance on more drought-susceptible Central Valley Project supplies.

Another pre-1914 water supply is delivered by 22 miles of flumes and canals that bring water from the South Fork of the American River and four alpine reservoirs. That water right was filed for in 1856, the flumes and canals were completed in 1873 and provide up to 86 cubic feet per second year round for consumptive use and power generation through a 21-megawatt powerhouse built by Western States after it bought the water system in 1916 and licensed the powerhouse in 1922.

These facilities, called Project 184 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, were acquired by PG&E in 1928 and EID in 1999.

Western States and the El Dorado Water Users Association agreed, at the urging of the state Railroad Commission, to designate 15,080 acre-feet of water for the Placerville water group in 1919 for agricultural, commercial and domestic uses. On Sept. 22, 1925, the El Dorado Irrigation District was formed by a majority of 679 votes out of 858. There are now more than 74,000 voters in the district.

In 1925, the district’s service area encompassed 11,500 acres and now covers 140,800 acres.

In 2003, EID won a lawsuit against the state Water Quality Control Board entitling it to an additional 17,000 acre-feet of unimpaired water from Forebay Reservoir.

In addition to direct diversion form tghe South Fork of the American River and the 35,187 acre-feet stored in the four alpine reservoirs, the flumes and canals capture a portion of the runoff from streams along the way such as Mill Creek. A total of seven creeks add as much as 10 cfs each to the El Dorado Canal. Alder Creek provides 15 cfs of South Fork flows. The water released from the four alpine reservoirs eventually is captured by a diversion dam on the South Fork of the American River and is then shunted into the El Dorado Canal.

Sly Park’s Jenkinson Lake stores 41,033 acre-feet and is primarily fed by rainwater from two creeks, one of which is supplemented by a diversion from Camp Creek in the North Fork Cosumnes River basin. Sly Park is EID’s largest water source.

EID also diverts water from the North Fork of the Cosumnes River, Clear Creek and Squaw Hollow Creek to supply agricultural customers on the Crawford and East Diamond ditches. These ditches are remnants of an extensive network of mining ditches that dates to the early 1850s and once ran all the way to Bass Lake.

Two additional pre-1914 water rights are 60 acre-feet of Bass Lake filed in 1866 and 152 acre-feet of Blakeley Reservoir in Camino filed in 1876, according to a presentation Monday on water rights given by EID General Counsel Tom Cumpston.


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