EID finds the ‘unicorn’

Michael Raffety

1-14-15

By a 5-0 vote, the El Dorado Irrigation District concluded a 10-year quest to get a contract for additional water delivery from Folsom Lake.

“I’m amazed,” said Director Alan Day. “I thought it was a unicorn.”

The water delivery contract is for half of the 17,000 acre-feet of water EID gained the rights to when it acquired Hydroelectric Project 184 in 1999.

The state granted EID the 17,000 acre-feet of water in 1996 after applying in 1991, but it wasn’t until 2003 that it was adjudicated as a water right unimpaired by the state. It is referred to by its state license number, Permit 21112.

Now EID has a five-year contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for 8,500 acre-feet of the 17,000 acre-feet to be drawn out of Folsom Lake.

“Hopefully, we can show them the impact will be minimal,” Day said.

“It’s a very exciting day for the district,” said Dan Corcoran, environment review division manager.

Corcoran and District Counsel Tom Cumpston have been working with USBR for 10 years to win a Warren Act contract for delivery of its water from Folsom Lake.

“The Warren Act of Feb. 21, 1911, authorized the United States to execute contracts for the conveyance and storage of non-project water in federal facilities when excess capacity exists,” according to the USBR.

The primary benefit of this 8,500 acre-feet of water is that it will be a firm yield in all water years, as will the remaining 8,500 acre-feet yet to be contracted with USBR, Corcoran said.

This contract for 8,500 acre-feet of Project 184 water, due to begin March 1, brings EID’s total water supplies from Folsom Lake to 20,610. The other components of that total include 7,550 acre-feet of contracted water and 4,560 acre-feet of water rights from Weber Reservoir and water ditch rights.

Last year during the drought the bureau cut back EID’s allocation from 7,550 acre-feet to 3,500 acre-feet. Weber Creek and various ditch rights totals are gauged each year, with last year indicating less water flowing through Weber Creek into Folsom Lake.

By contrast, the 8,500 acre-feet is “firm yield” that comes from EID’s stored water in the four alpine reservoirs above 7,000 feet.

Last July when the State Water Resources Control Board issued a curtailment order for junior water rights holders to stop diverting water, it did not affect water already stored.

During the 2014 drought year El Dorado Hills pumped 8,500 acre-feet of water  for El Dorado Hills, according to Dana Strahan, operations manager for the drinking water division. In a normal water year El Dorado Hills will used 10,000-12,000 acre-feet, with some of that supplied from Forebay during the winter.

Getting the five-year contract for the 8,500 acre-feet of firm yield is “overall a huge accomplishment,” Corcoran said.

When EID first got a contract for the Weber Creek water, the bureau only issued one-year contracts before agreeing to a long-term contract. This time the bureau gave EID a five-year contract.

The bureau will charge $10.57 per acre-foot in power-foregone costs for the Permit 2112 water, compared to $20.14 it pays for the 7,555 acre-feet of Central Valley Project contract water.

EID General Manager Jim Abercrombie said once this contract is completed his first call to the USBR will be to request a long-term contract. Phase 2 will be to get the full 17,000 acre-feet and phase 3 would be to bring the water rights back up the hill.

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