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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Osborne seeks action

By Michael Raffety

Mountain Democrat 5-7-14

Since January, when Director Alan Day took the chairman’s gavel, the board followed his recommendation for a two-stage process of acting on district issues. That process involved staff making a presentation one meeting and coming back with the same presentation at a later meeting for the board to then vote on the proposed action.

Director George Osborne recommended April 28 shaving that process down. Osborne asked “to allow the board to either take action or continue the item during the first presentation of the item.

“This modification allows the board to continue the item to a future meeting if additional information is requested by the board prior to action being taken on the item,” he wrote in his recommendation.

“A lot of what we do is regulatory and perfunctory,” Osborne told the board. “Now we’re slowing the process down.

“We’re elected to make decisions. Sometimes those decisions take a lot of work, sometimes not so much,” Osborne said.

Director Bill George, who seconded Osborne’s motion, said, “We always have an opportunity to continue. An awful lot of what we do is repetitive. It takes extra staff time. We have made it clear to staff not to bring something that needs to be done by Friday. We get a little more time cushion.”

“I think there’s a lot of items. I think it’s absolutely important to have time to reflect on what’s in here (the agenda packet),” said Director Greg Prada. “I don’t know what I’m going to do until I’m driving to the meeting.”

“I understand we did this in the beginning because we had two new board members and to give the public more time to comment,” said Director Dale Coco. “I’d like to say go back to the old way. Any director can ask an item to be held over.”

“It would require a board vote to hold over,” Day said, adding that he wanted to “give the entire board time to review and reflect. It’s healtSince January, when Director Alan Day took the chairman’s gavel, the board followed his recommendation for a two-stage process of acting on district issues. That process involved staff making a presentation one meeting and coming back with the same presentation at a later meeting for the board to then vote on the proposed action.

Director George Osborne recommended April 28 shaving that process down. Osborne asked “to allow the board to either take action or continue the item during the first presentation of the item.

“This modification allows the board to continue the item to a future meeting if additional information is requested by the board prior to action being taken on the item,” he wrote in his recommendation.

“A lot of what we do is regulatory and perfunctory,” Osborne told the board. “Now we’re slowing the process down.

“We’re elected to make decisions. Sometimes those decisions take a lot of work, sometimes not so much,” Osborne said.

Director Bill George, who seconded Osborne’s motion, said, “We always have an opportunity to continue. An awful lot of what we do is repetitive. It takes extra staff time. We have made it clear to staff not to bring something that needs to be done by Friday. We get a little more time cushion.”

“I think there’s a lot of items. I think it’s absolutely important to have time to reflect on what’s in here (the agenda packet),” said Director Greg Prada. “I don’t know what I’m going to do until I’m driving to the meeting.”

“I understand we did this in the beginning because we had two new board members and to give the public more time to comment,” said Director Dale Coco. “I’d like to say go back to the old way. Any director can ask an item to be held over.”

“It would require a board vote to hold over,” Day said, adding that he wanted to “give the entire board time to review and reflect. It’s healthy for the board. It’s healthy for the public. It protects the board minority’s rights. Three members can ram something through.”

“Anytime you try to extradite things something gets sneaked through,” said audience member Joe Fuller of Cameron Park.

“It’s difficult for me as a member of the public to see things come through twice,” said Paul Raveling, adding that few members of the general public have time to come to the meetings.

“I support Director Day. Back up when the board packet is available two days,” said Jon Jakowatz of El Dorado Hills. “Let one board member’s request be allowed (for continuance).”

“We’re not always the most popular guy on the block,” Osborne said.

“We could get the opposite — tyranny of the minority,” George said.

When George called for the question, Day responded, “I’m president…” and that he would have the last say because he calls for the vote.

“You’re president, not king,” George said.

Osborne’s motion passed 3-2, with Osborne, George and Coco voting yes and Prada and Day voting no.hy for the board. It’s healthy for the public. It protects the board minority’s rights. Three members can ram something through.”

“Anytime you try to extradite things something gets sneaked through,” said audience member Joe Fuller of Cameron Park.

“It’s difficult for me as a member of the public to see things come through twice,” said Paul Raveling, adding that few members of the general public have time to come to the meetings.

“I support Director Day. Back up when the board packet is available two days,” said Jon Jakowatz of El Dorado Hills. “Let one board member’s request be allowed (for continuance).”

“We’re not always the most popular guy on the block,” Osborne said.

“We could get the opposite — tyranny of the minority,” George said.

When George called for the question, Day responded, “I’m president…” and that he would have the last say because he calls for the vote.

“You’re president, not king,” George said.

Osborne’s motion passed 3-2, with Osborne, George and Coco voting yes and Prada and Day voting no.

Small farmers attacked by EID duo

By Michael Raffety

Mountain Democrat 4-9-14

For the second time, El Dorado Irrigation Director Greg Prada attacked those on the Small Farm rate, but this time he was joined by Board President Alan Day.

At the March 24 meeting, Prada claimed the Small Farm rate was a violation of Proposition 218.

Proposition 218 says, “…the amount of the fee or charge imposed upon any parcel or person as an incident of property ownership does not exceed the proportional cost of the service attributable to the parcel.”

Meanwhile, Jenny Downey, utility billing supervisor, presented a proposed revision to how persons would qualify for the Small Farm rate.

Instead of the current requirement of having a minimum half acre under cultivation, the proposal would require showing an IRS Schedule F indicating farm income of $1,000 a year.

The Small Farm rate absorbed the Domestic Irrigation rate customers when the Domestic Irrigation rate was eliminated Jan. 1, 2013. Before that shift there were 210 customers on the Small Farm rate. After Domestic Irrigation became an “orphaned rate” because it was closed to new applications, it ceased to meet the proportionality” requirement of Proposition 218.

There were 1,126 Domestic Irrigation customers in 2013 when the rate was eliminated.

By the deadline of January 2013 the Small Farm rate had 381 customers who paid a $100 fee to the El Dorado County Agriculture Department to have their properties inspected and certified as meeting the qualifications for the Small Farm rate.

It was revealed at the March 24 meeting that after the number of accounts in the Small Farm rate grew to 720, as of Jan. 9 new applications “were placed on hold while staff reviewed the criteria.”

Downey said that 60 percent of those on the Small Farm rate were on parcels over 4 acres, though the minimum size to qualify is 1 acre.

“Since 2006 the Small Farm rate has failed to comply with Proposition 218,” Prada said.

“I don’t want to see us implement it as written,” said Board President Alan Day.

Besides the $1,000 income requirement, the proposal would give a person on the Small Farm rate five years for his or her trees to mature and produce a crop.

“The way this is revised the loopholes are so big you can drive a truck through it. Putting in 25 olives trees is not very costly,” Day said.

“Making it a three-year expiration to a five-year expiration … Do you want to support 200 genuine ag people? Move it into the Ag category,” said Day, adding he thought sales should be $10,000, so that EID is not “supporting gentlemen farmers.”

“We’ve got to change these tiers. These tiers are wrong,” Prada said.

“This is being abused. I support ag 100 percent. This is a complex issue. Simple is best. Move it into the Ag class,” said Director Dale Coco. “I would like to see the numbers worked out by our own staff. I support eliminating this class.”

“Eighteen years in the county the overall mantra is ‘keep it rural.’ How do you keep it rural?” asked Director George Osborne. “If we’re not going to keep these (small farmers), you’re going to see these parcels split. There’s going to be more pressure for development. Use your common sense. Why are we here?”

Osborne also suggested that an IRS Form F may not be the only proof of ag sales. Some small farmers may join a co-op and would thus get a partnership K-1  form.

One such person who spoke up was Craig Schmidt, who is forming a co-op for olive growers that will aggregate 800 olive trees for pressing into olive oil.

“Don’t shoot me. We have helped 27 of us plant olive trees. We’re forming a co-op,” Schmidt said. “There is a variety of circumstances. We probably have 100 folks on the list.”

Kirk Taylor, Ph.D, who runs the Irrigation Management System for commercial ag growers, said the Domestic Irrigation rate was developed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to help EID get the Sly Park project approved, which was originally part of the Central Valley Water Project.

“We support the Small Farm rate that is legitimate,” said Valerie Zentner of the local Farm Bureau. “We’re not in favor of defining how to sell.

“You’re wrestling with something that happened a long time ago, said wine grape grower Doug Leisz. “If you don’t allow them to farm,  (the property) will break up. Move them to ag. A workshop will flush things out.”

“We have to do something to keep the legitimate farms in business,” said Director Bill George.

“We always intended the customers needed to grow to market,” said Farm Advisor Lynn Wunderlich. “I caution the board to (be sure) the criteria are broadly applied.”

“Five years is for new growers just putting something in the ground,” said El Dorado County Agriculture Commissioner Charlene Carveth, who participated in the proposed change to Small Farm rate requirements.

“Certainly time ag rates and tiered rates must apply to ag. The issue is not whether the Small Farm rate is legitimate or not a legitimate customer. You will have to do a Proposition 218 hearing (to eliminate the rate),” said District Counsel Tom Cumpston. If a majority protest you would not be able to change.”

Out of 720 Small Farm accounts it would only take 361 written protests to prevent the board from eliminating the rate class.

The final paragraph of Proposition 218 states, “… except for fees or charges for sewer, water and refuse collection services, no property related fee or charge shall be imposed or increased unless and until that fee or charge is submitted and approved by a majority vote of the property owners…”

Water rates became part of Proposition 218 as a result of court action.

The 2nd Court of Appeals in a decision published in 2011 regarding the City of Palmdale v Palmdale Water District said, “The City contended that PWD’s rate increase violated Proposition 218’s proportionality requirement by charging irrigation customers a disproportionate share of PWD’s total costs without a showing that PWD’s cost of delivering service to those customers is proportionately higher than PWD’s costs of delivering service to other customers,” as summarized by the Sacramento law firm of Somach Simmons & Dunn.

“In Bighorn-Desert View Water Agency v. Virjil, the California Supreme Court (in 2006) held that: [O]nce a property owner or resident has paid the connection charges and has become a customer of a public water agency, all charges for water delivery incurred thereafter are charges for a property-related service, whether the charge is calculated on the basis of consumption or is imposed as a fixed monthly fee,” according to an analysis by the League of California Cities.

Rate classes reaffirmed

By Michael Raffety

Mountain Democrat 5-9-14

In November 2011, the El Dorado Irrigation District Board of Directors adopted the Cost of Service study and approved switching from allocating 30 percent of rates to a base charge and 70 percent to commodity usage. The vote then was 4-1, with Director George Osborne voting no.

Last month on April 28, the board voted 3-2 to uphold the rate classes that arose from the Cost of Service study. Osborne voted yes this time along with Directors Bill George and Dale Coco, who had placed the issue on that agenda.

Voting no were Director Greg Prada and Board President Alan Day.

The vote in 2011 came after a 15-month Cost of Services study by rate consultant Greg Clumpner of HDR Inc. and a community-based panel of five local volunteers appointed by the board, including Prada, and five district staff members.

Coco requested April 28 that the board “reaffirm the approved rate classes with the understanding that the eligibility requirements for the Small Farm rate class are to be strengthened to support agricultural pursuits.”

“A great deal of time and effort and money were expended and a great deal of time by the board and staff … I’m comfortable with the rate classes,” Coco said. “We’re spending an inordinate amount of time on rate classes.”

“What’s the purpose?” asked Day. “It seems we are revisiting this issue every meeting. Time to move on and not keep debating rate classes.”

“Director Coco is asking, with the new members of the board, to affirm (the rate classes),” said George.

“It is known there will be a change in the criteria for the Small Farm (rate),” Osborne said.

“The EID Small Farm category was created a dozen years ago before Prop. 218 applied to water districts. This rate is not a cost-driven rate. It is a political rate,” Prada said. “I didn’t want these ‘non-farmists’ climbing into the agricultural boat. There were 200 in the Small Farm rate and we now have 720. I’m convinced it is not legal.”

“This whole thing smacks of the old boy network,” said Cameron Park resident Joe Fuller.

“They (Small Farm rate users) live in gated communities,” said Jon Jakowatz, who lives in the gated community of Four Seasons in El Dorado Hills. “They are horse farms and watering big front lawns. They are Johnny-come-latelies.”

Jakowatz was referring to Greenstone Country, which extends from Green Valley Road to Lotus Road.

Craig Schmidt, who operates an olive tree planting consulting business called Greenstone Growers, told the board the name referred to green olives and their pits. He pointed out there were 1,400 on the Domestic Irrigation rate and 200 on the Small Farm rate when the DI rate was discontinued at the end of 2013, and that “720 is only half the number of farms before.”

“We’ll have a workshop (on the Small Farm criteria) and I suggest we do it at night,” Osborne said.

“There were some real farmers in Domestic Irrigation,” said Rainbow Orchards owner Tom Heflin, who was on the Cost of Service study committee.

Marion Reinhardt told the board she was on the Small Farm rate. She and her husband had apple trees and had planted olive trees “to make olive oil” and help supplement their retirement.

Wine grape grower and COS study committee member Doug Leisz pointed out that 87 percent of Sly Park was to go to agriculture when it was built. “There are excellent small farms. Be very careful as you approach this.”

In response to comments from Day, Leisz said, “Be careful you don’t damn the whole class. They met the criteria. That’s the finest Cost of Service study I’ve seen EID produce. Don’t throw the group out without very careful consideration.”

Merv DeHaas, who retired as county Water Agency manager and had worked 27 years for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said, “You better not destroy that Cost of Service study. Sly Park was authorized in 1949 as a Central Valley Project with 12 1/2 percent domestic use. The Bureau of Reclamation developed irrigation projects. EID sold water to Rancho Murieta to pay for Sly Park. It was decided to build a single system (for ag and domestic use). The Health Department kept raising the standards. Over the years the cost of providing water had gone up to serve domestic customers. That’s what caused the disparity in the Cost of Service. We support the Cost of Service study. You ought to affirm this rate structure and move on.”

“We, as farmers, the one thing we don’t want to worry about is the rate going up. We constantly worry some about change in the rate structure,” said winery owner Greg Boeger.

“I think there was a lot of energy expended. I have a lot of concerns about the Cost of Service study and Small Farms,” said Day, who then called for the vote.

In a related matter, Osborne had asked General Manager Jim Abercrombie to clarify some issues raised by Prada in letter to the editor published in the Mountain Democrat April 11.

“Director Osborne indicated that he did not recall any Small Farm rate decreases (37 percent as alleged in Prada’s letter) in the last several years unless they were associated with a change in the district’s cost recovery methodology,” the report said. That cost recovery change in 2012 was from the 30-70 rate structure to the current 50-50 division between base rates and commodity charges.

“The Small Farm base charges increased 83 percent, although the commodity rate decreased for all tiers. The commodity rate decreased 14 percent for indoor potable water use from 2011 to align with Tier 1 for the Residential class and decreased 17-37 percent depending upon tier to align with the Agricultural customer class structure,” Abercrombie wrote.

Prada wrote, “In turn, the acre-feet sold at the special $49 far-below-cost rate has surged to nearly 2,000 acre-feet.”

Abercrombie wrote, “The increase in water sold at the Small Farm rate is directly attributable to the increase in Small Farm customers following the elimination of the Domestic Irrigation category. In 2012, 390 Small Farm customers and 1,178 DI customers used a total of 2,738 acre-feet of water. In 2013, 717 Small Farm customers used a total of 1,923 acre-feet of water, or 2.7 acre-feet per service. The annual use of Small Farm customers has decreased from 2.9 acre-feet per service in 2012 to 2.7 acre-feet per service in 2013.”

Prada wrote, “EID’s $49 per acre-foot Small Farm rate has barely increased since 2008, while residential rates have skyrocketed to $829 per acre-foot.”

Abercrombie, noting Prada did not show how arrived at the $49 figure, wrote, “A better method is to calculate the customer’s annual bill as if they used 1 acre-foot of water. For simplicity, this calculation assumes equal usage in each billing period, although all customers use much more water from April through October, and much less water in the other months.”

With the 1 acre-foot basis, a Single-Family Residential customers would be billed $1,055 and a Small Farm customer $514 for the year.

“The primary basis for the difference is Principle 9,” wrote Abercrombie, “which was adopted as part of the COS study. This principle was unanimously agreed to by the COS committee and adopted by the district’s board by unanimous vote on Sept. 1, 2010. Director Prada was a member of the COS committee and voted for Principle 9.”

“Principle 9 recognizes that the district converted Ag customers from an open ditch raw water service to a piped system to conserve water, which directly benefited the district’s other customers. Among the benefits of this conversion is the 2010 long-term Warren Act contract authorizing the district to take up to 4,560 acre-feet annually of water from Folsom Reservoir from supplies that formerly served only agricultural customers via open ditches. This conserved supply now exclusively benefits and serves the district’s customers in El Dorado Hills,” Abercrombie wrote.

“I’d like to table (this item),” said Day. “We should not have staff spending time and money (on this).” To which Prada offered a second.

“The reason I asked is I believe the numbers (in Prada’s letter) are not correct. It sends a confusing message when published in the newspaper,” said Osborne. “If the information is handed out to the public it has to be accurate. I asked the staff to bring this forward.”

“All I ask is for the facts. I feel they were exaggerated (in Prada’s letter),” said George.

“I quoted statistics. It was dismissed. It was ignored,” Prada said. “I spent a lot of time finding out what’s not portrayed by staff. It’s not strictly an irrigation district. What’s quote, unquote, in the best interests of the district. It’s the ratepayers who keep the lights on. I ran on a different point of view. If I can’t get staff or a board majority to with me, OK.”

“I object to tabling,” said Paul Raveling. “Facts are not opinion.”

“Frankly, I pretty much agree with what Mr. Prada said,” said Joe Fuller of Cameron Park.

“I can’t resist. I agree there is distrust of EID,” said Tom Heflin of Camino. “This is just exactly the thing that feeds into the distrust of EID. I was appalled by that letter to the editor. This is the forum where this should take place.”

“It doesn’t make sense. I’d like to write things about the Planning Commission, but ethically it’s not right,” said Heflin, who is on the El Dorado County Planning Commission.

“It was an e-mail sent to a bunch of folks. It was not a letter to the editor,” said Prada.

The “folks” the letter was sent to included the editor of the Democrat.

“It would be good if we could get as much exposure for the drought as you did for your letter,” said Craig Schmidt.

“I’m not sure we shouldn’t go through the numbers,” said Director Coco.

“It’s inappropriate for a director to respond to the other director,” said Day.

The item was tabled on a 3-2 vote, with Osborne and George voting no.

Belltower: El Nino or el nada?

By Michael Raffety

4-21-14

As El Dorado Irrigation District Director George Osborne noted at the April 14 board meeting an El Niño could go south on us. Osborne, retired as a local commander of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, had a professional interest in the weather.

Predictions that we might have an El Niño year in 2014-15, brought Osborne’s reminder that sometimes El Niño ocean conditions send the rain into Arizona instead of Northern California.

It wasn’t until the 1982-83 rain year that scientists began talking about El Niño. It was only a few years prior to that the Scripps Institution of Oceanography would issue long-range forecasts in the fall for the winter. The 1982-83 rain year was the second wettest on record bringing 72.85 inches of rain, higher than a 6-foot-high person. The record was set in 1889-90 at 78.13 inches, enough to drown a 6-foot-5-inch basketball player standing in a rain barrel.

Now Scripps, by studying tree rings, has determined that El Niños have been happening for 700 years.

“I think there’s no doubt that there’s an El Niño underway,” said climate scientist Kevin Trenbeth of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. “The question is whether it’ll be a small or big one.”

Oceanographers have improved monitoring of ocean temperatures and other conditions, so that at this point they can say there is anywhere from a 50 to 80 percent chance we will have an El Niño affecting us in the 2014-15 rain year. They’ll be more sure by June, but the real proof will come in the fall and winter.

What happens is normally the trade winds in the Pacific Ocean blow east to west, leaving the Pacific Coast of North and South America with cold water. When the trade winds reverse, warm water heads east toward the Pacific Coast. Fishermen in South America, noting its appearance around Christmas, call it El Niño, the Christ child.

“The main question right now is if this entire warm-pool region will accelerate to the eastern basin or stick in the middle of the Pacific,” said meteorologist Michael Ventrice of Weather Services International.

“Official NOAA Climate Prediction Center estimates peg the odds of El Niño’s return at 50 percent, but many climate scientists think that is a lowball estimate. And there are several indications that if it materializes, this year’s El Niño could be massive, a lot like the 1997-98 event that was the strongest on record,” said Adam Mann on his Website “Wired.”

The 1996-97 rain year saw a 500-year flood on rivers in El Dorado County as the North Fork of the Cosumnes overtopped the Bucks Bar Bridge and the South Fork of the American River saw a house and propane tanks swept away. The river lapped at the bottom of the Mosquito Bridge. Portions of Highway 50 through the American River Canyon were cut away by the river, which rolled boulders along, leaving a house-sized one on the highway. That year only wound up with 50.71 inches of rain, but December saw 19.23 inches fall and January saw 19.22 inches. It felt like all 19 inches fell between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Like the 1982-83 year, the 1997 flood left Highway 50 covered by a slide. In 1983, the slide came from the north side of the highway. In 1997, it came from the south and slopped across to Highway 50. It knocked out a few cabins in the Randall Tract. Wrights Lake Road was blocked from Highway 50 by a slide that year as well.

“El Niño is a recurring weather pattern affecting the world every two to seven years,” Mann wrote.

That recurring pattern got my attention, so I reviewed our 139 years of rainfall records to see if it confirms the pattern Mann pointed to. I looked at every year that totaled more than 50 inches of rainfall. The average rainfall in Placerville as of the 2012-13 rain season is 39.57 inches. In 139 years there have been 26 that recorded 50 inches and above. Two of those, as mentioned previously, recorded more than 70 inches and seven recorded more than 60 inches (but less than 70 inches).

The intervals for big rain years, beginning with 2011-12 and going back to 1876-77, bear that out for the most part. The intervals are six, six, 11, 13, 15, 25, four, seven, three, three, four and three.

Some of these 50-inch-or-better rain years clump together in twos and even in threes, such as 1982-85. But a super clump was the four years of 1892-97.

The real anomaly is the 25-year break between 1910-11 and 1935-36. Two other breaks of lesser amounts were the 15 years between 1935-36 and 1950-51. The years 1950-52 were a two-year clump, with the winter of 1952 being a record snowfall year that saw Southern Pacific’s City of San Francisco snowbound in the Sierra.

Another 13-year hiatus followed the year 1955-56 until 1968-69. The former year was a flood year for the Sacramento area. Then there was an 11-year break between 1984-85 and 1995-96. That can be whittled down to 10 years if one counts the 49.55 inches that fell in 1985-86. The year saw 18.87 inches fall in February, with 10 inches of that falling in a 10-day period. Here’s what Sacramento County’s stormready.org said about that: “The overwhelming floodwaters tore bridges from their foundations and punched through levees. The Northern California flood resulted in 13 deaths, 50,000 people evacuated and over $400 million in property damage.” Folsom Dam was nearly overtopped and that is why an emergency overflow flood bypass is being built at Folsom Dam, thanks to former Congressman John Doolittle.

Though the average rainfall in Placerville is 39.57 inches, that is skewed by the big water years when we get more than 40 inches. The norm tends to be between 28 and 33 inches. Anything above 25 inches is an adequate rain-year. The trick is to have a way to bank the big water years. The El Dorado County Water and Power Authority plans to do that by laying claim to 40,000 acre-feet of area-of-origin water and sell it to Sacramento until our county needs it. Sacramento would bank it in an underground aquifer, something that can’t be done in the foothills. That’s one way to save during big rain years. The El Dorado County Water Agency and the El Dorado Irrigation District need to figure out another way to capture runoff in El Niño years and bank it in a one of Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s reservoirs or a new reservoir or then figure out how to feed that banked water back into the system.

EID preserves small water right

By Michael Raffety

Mountain Democrat, 9/20/14

The 152-acre-foot Blakeley Reservoir in Camino will no longer supply Apple Mountain Golf Course, but the El Dorado Irrigation District is going to add it to its sure supply that it can retrieve from Folsom Lake.

When the reservoir was fed by the Main Ditch, a Camino golf course and EID reached a deal in 1996 to provide the golf course 270 acre-feet of water a year from Blakeley Reservoir via the Main Ditch that had previously served farmers in the area.

The reservoir was built in the 1870s by the El Dorado Water and Deep Gravel Mining Co. That outfit also built the El Dorado Canal and its two alpine lakes, completing the project in 1876 after posting the water rights in 1856.

When Western States Power Co. bought the canal in 1916 the state Railroad Commission required it to set aside 15,080 acre-feet of water for the El Dorado Water Users Association. When farmers and Placerville residents formed EID in 1925 the district took over those rights. In 1999, PG&E for $1 sold EID Project 184, which includes four alpine reservoirs, a diversion dam on the South Fork of the American River at Kyburz, 22 miles of canals, flumes and tunnels, Forebay Reservoir, a penstock and a 21-megawatt powerhouse. PG&E also gave EID $15 million for repairs.

Acquiring Project 184 enabled the district to double its water rights.

Now it is adding 95 acre-feet of pre-1914 water rights by letting Apple Mountain out of its Blakeley Reservoir contract that was originally dated to Oct. 21, 1996, and was an agreement with James and Juanita Ward.

“The Ward agreement was intended to settle an outstanding dispute regarding historic water rights claimed by the Wards,” the staff report deputy general counsel Brian Poulsen stated.

After the Wards went bankrupt, EID approved an agreement with their successor, Apple Mountain in 2001. The agreement called for EID providing the limited partnership 270 acre-feet of water at ditch water rates through a regular water connection but pump to water from Blakeley Reservoir to water the golf course.

Apple Mountain installed a pump at the reservoir but never used it, according to Poulsen. And EID never enforced this part of the agreement. So EID declared King’s X and kept the reservoir water for itself. With no more ditch water, EID staff determined that springs at the head of the reservoir provide 95 acre-feet of water annually.

The district will release the reservoir water into North Canyon Creek, a tributary of the South Fork of the American River. It will enhance its dry year supply of water available from Folsom Lake. The district has a maximum contract amount of 4,560 acre-feet in Folsom Lake that comes from upstream sources such as Weber Reservoir, various ditch water rights and now 95-acre-feet from Blakeley Reservoir.

Apple Mountain Golf Course gets ditch water rates out of the tap until 2021.

The action proposed by Poulsen was approved 5-0 by the EID board Sept. 9.

Water available to serve current, future customers

Michael Raffety

Mountain Democrat, 9/2-14

A freshly minted Water Supply Assessment prepared by a consultant said there will be enough water to serve both current and future customers as well as four proposed developments that will require an amendment to the El Dorado County General Plan.

The report said the total normal water-year supply available in 2015 will be 77,900 acre-feet, rising to 107,890 in 2025 and 110,290 in 2035. In both a single dry year and multiple dry years that 2035 total is dialed back to 77,885, leaving a 7,225 surplus due to higher consumption of 70,660 predicted in a dry year.

The 2025-2035 figures include a forecast of increased use of recycled water for landscaping and 30,000 acre-feet from an agreement between the El Dorado County Water Agency and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. The 1964 agreement allows for 40,000 acre-feet from the White Rock penstock but the district’s recently completed Integrated Water Resources Management Plan forecasts only a demand for 30,000 acre-feet.

The water demand in 2025 is forecast to be 49,937 acre-feet and 67,295 in 2035.

The nearly $127,000 report by Tully & Young Consulting was accepted 4-0 by the El Dorado Irrigation District board Aug. 26. The report and EID staff time were paid 100 percent by the developers, though EID commissioned the study at the request of the county. A state law passed in 2003 provides for this kind of coordination to ensure adequate water supply.

Current customers will use 38,595 acre-feet of water in 2015. Adjusted General Plan Updated land-use will account for 581 acre-feet in 2015, 9,012 acf in 2025 and 25,766 in 2035.

Central El Dorado Hills planned use on a defunct nine-hole golf course is 400 acre-feet in 2025 and 450 in 2035.

Dixon Ranch would use 152 acre-feet in 2015, 517 in 2025 and 482 in 2035.

Lime Rock Valley next to Marble Valley would use 272 acre-feet in 2025 and 573 in 2035.

Marble Valley would use 1,285 acre-feet in 2025 and 2,177 in 2035.

“Most districts use a two-year dry-year period,” said EID General Manager Jim Abercrombie, though he added, “Most plan for three years.”

The most serious drought of the last 138 years was 1975-77, with 15.9 inches and 15.86 inches of rainfall each year. That drought was followed by a year that recorded 47.09 inches of precipitation. The 138-year average is 39.57 inches in Placerville.

EID has a drought management plan that would require water use reductions ranging from 15 percent voluntary to 30 percent mandatory  in the third year of a drought.

The Water Supply Assessment report does not require an environmental impact report because it “does not commit the district to a specific course of action,” according to the staff report.

Director George Osborne asked about the 15,000 acre-foot  drought back-up in the SMUD reservoir system.

“SMUD agreed to the facility. We have to go get the water,” said General Counsel Tom Cumpston.

“This does not mean that EID is approving these projects,” said Director Bill George.

“Also, it is not a commitment of water. Commitment is when someone applies for a water meter,” Cumpston said.

“Our task is to supply the utility whenever possible,” Osborne said.

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