COLA added: EID employees to pay bigger share of benefits

Michael Raffety

Mountain Democrat, 2/26/13

A three-year contract extension amending four articles of the Memorandum of Understanding originally reached with El Dorado Irrigation District Employees Association in 2010 will save the district $3.1 million over the next three years, according to EID Human Resources Director Vicki Hoffman.

As a result of the Public Employees Pension Reform Act employees will have to pay 50 percent of pension costs, which will be the 8 percent that is the employee’s portion of pension contributions. The employer also has an 8 percent match, but it is the employee’s share that is used first upon retirement. The employer’s match is only consumed if the employee outlives his portion of the pension.

The Letter of Understanding employees agreed to Feb. 15 means the district will no longer pay 100 percent of the employees’ 8 percent. In March the employees will pick up 2 percentage points of the 8 percent. Another 2 percentage points will be shifted to the employees in November. The employees had been paying 4 percentage points of their CalPERs costs since Jan. 1, 2012.

The EID board approved the LOU 4-1 in a public meeting Feb. 25.

New employees will have to pay the full 8 percent immediately, the LOU stated. New employees will also have to wait to age 62 instead of 55 to retire. The pension calculation for new employees is 2 percent, the same as county employees. Older employees at EID are on the 2.7 percent at 55 formula.

Additional savings come from increasing the share of health benefit costs for employees. Using the Kaiser plan as a benchmark, the Letter of Understanding states that if Kaiser premiums increase 10 percent for dependants of employees and retirees the cost sharing will go “up to a maximum of 85 percent-15 percent split. That cost sharing split becomes permanent in 2016.

And, “Plans that exceed the cost of the benchmark plan require a greater employees/retiree contribution.”

The sweetener that helped the employees agree to take-backs was cost of living increases in 2014, 2015 and 2016 based on the Consumer Price Index but not to exceed 2 percent.

Additionally 50 percent of the employees in 2014 will be eligible for a 5 percent merit step increase. For water treatment plant and sewer plant operators that means additional education is required to advance a step. The top step is Step 5. By 2016 only 10 percent of employees will be eligible for merit increases, Hoffman told the board.

In an email followup Hoffman told the Mountain Democrat that this year 46 percent are not eligible for merit increases because they are at the top step. in 2014  67 percent are not eligible, in 2015 the figure not eligible is 79 percent and in 2016 it will be 90 percent.

Between cost of living increases, merit pay and pension reform the cumulative savings of the three-year life of the LOU is $822,000, according to Hoffman’s PowerPoint presentation.

“I’m disappointed we’re still giving out raises,’ said Director Alan Day, who voted against approving the LOU.

“You pay for experience,” said Board President George Osborne, adding that employees, especially certificated ones will go to higher paying districts.

“The health care (plan) had a little more, but it’s nibbling around the edges,” Day said.

“We don’t yet know what the impact of Obamacare,” Osborne said.

“I am surprised that the vote was not unanimous because of the significant savings realized for EID’s ratepayers,” Osborne said after the vote. “All board members participated in several months of closed session meetings on this LOU, and the final product reflected all board members’ priorities.”

“I am very pleased that the employees recognized the importance of implementing these pension reforms early. It will generate substantial savings for our district and its ratepayers — which include most of our employees,” said EID General Manager Jim Abercrombie in a statement released after the meeting. “We acknowledge the collaborative effort to reach this agreement, and I truly believe it fairly balances employee and ratepayer interests.”

“The employees recognize the fiscal strain the district has been under for the last few years. Most of us are ratepayers as well as employees and we feel the crunch of rising utility and living costs,” said Employee Association President Doug Venable in a statement released after the meeting. “The association and management were able to reach an agreement that satisfies the priorities of budget reduction and long-term stability. Although this contract is an overall loss for our employees, we voted overwhelmingly to ratify the new terms of the MOU. We want to thank management and the district Board of Directors for working with us through this process.”

“I thank the staff for their cooperative firmness but fairness, said Joe Rose, attorney for the Employees Association. “It’s a reasonable compensation package to retain employees. It’s difficult to attract and retain water and sewer workers.”

“Go back to the table. To give half the employees 7 percent is unacceptable, said Sherrie Petersen of El Dorado Hills.

“Our doubling of water rates have a very short-term effect on the cost of living,” Day said.

Greg Prada of Cameron Park noted the water rate increases had been 102 percent. “Two percent and 5 percent on top of that is not fair and equitable to the ratepayers.”

“Sixty-five percent of the operating budget is employee costs.,” Prada said. “You’re locking in rates. This world will not end if this is not approved today.”

Day made a motion to delay the vote for one month to allow the public more time to comment, but failed to get a second. The other four directors voted to approve the deal with the employees union.

Delta Water Master tries to grab EID water


Michael Raffety

Mountain Democrat, 1/5/13

Despite adverse court decisions the state is still aiming to take some of the El Dorado Irrigation District’s water rights, many of which predate the Water Commission Act of 1914 and even more predate the 1927 Fiegenbaum Act. That latter act exempted prior water rights from the due diligence requirement as the state applied for unallocated waters to use for the State Water Project and the Central Valley Water Project.

A Dec. 4, 2012, report from the State Water Master to the State Water Resources Control Board calls for the state to take control of all water rights, even those predating 1965 and predating the 1931 law protecting county-of-origin water rights.  The technical term used by the State Water Master is Term 91. That provision would allow the state to force EID to surrender water to the state whenever it called for it.

The state tried to apply that term to EID’s water rights application for 17,000 acre-feet of water from the South Fork of the American River. This water is released from storage in four alpine reservoirs, diverted from the river near Kyburz and sent through 22 miles of canal, flumes and tunnels, all of which originally were built between 1874 and 1876. The water rights for this system — now called Project 184 — date to 1856.

When PG&E owned this project and the 21-megawatt powerhouse the State Railroad Commission ordered in 1919 that the electric company provide El Dorado County Water Users Association 15,080 acre-feet of water. When EID bought Project 184 from PG&E in 1996 it was able to claim an additional 17,000 acre-feet of water. The original state-filed application in 1927 had been for 70,000 acre-feet.

The state granted EID the 17,000 acre-feet in November 1996, but in 2001 decided to add Term 91 to it, making it subject to release for the Delta when called by the state. El Dorado County sued the state, saying it had no right to apply Term 91 to its 17,000 acre-feet of water rights. Concurrent with that the Sierra Club’s legal arm sued, claiming EID didn’t have a pre-1914 right to the 15,080 acre-feet. Those two suits dating from 2001 were consolidated and Judge Lloyd Connolly issued a ruling in 2003 favorable to EID. It voided the state water board’s action to apply Term 91 to its 17,000 acre-feet and also said the board had no jurisdiction to require EID to prove its pre-1914 water rights.

Despite this ruling, the State Water Master, with little legal basis, issued a report stating, “It is the recommendation of this report that the requirement to curtail diversions of released stored water be extended to all water rights holders on a phased basis pursuant to relative water rights priorities where the release of such stored water is being used to meet water quality standards.”

Delta Water Master Craig M. Wilson further specified “curtailment letters”, aka Term 91 notices, should be sent to pre-1965 and pre-1914 water rights holders.

EID General Counsel Tom Cumpston, told the board Jan. 14 that the Delta Water Master and a team of 30 enforcement officers were originally tasked with ferreting out illegal diversions and pumps in the Delta.

“Their own investigation found illegal Delta connections were not a problem,” Cumpston said.

“What the Water Master is suggesting has no foundation in law,” Cumpston said. He noted that the California Supreme Court has said that seniority is the foundation of water rights.

Imposing Term 91 on EID’s pre 1927 water rights “poses a fundamental threat to EID,” Cumpston said.

Altogether EID has 77,590 acre-feet of annual water entitlements, according to the 2012 update of the 2010 five-year water plan it submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in September: 7,550 ACF of contract water from Folsom Lake, 15,080 plus 17,000 from Project 184, 33,400 from Jenkinson Lake in Sly Park and 4,560 from ditches and Weber Reservoir. Water rights to diversions from Slab Creek, Hangtown Creek and Weber Creek date back as early as 1853 – 160 years ago.

Additionally, 15,000 acre-feet of water was granted by an act of Congress named after its author, Vic Fazio. That water entitlement is still pending. Also in the future is a pending application for 40,000 acre-feet of water to fill space in existing reservoirs that the Sacramento Municipal Utility Districtis contracted to make available to El Dorado County. That contract also includes a drought storage agreement with SMUD to hold 15,000 acre-feet for EID.

Monday the EID board unanimously approved $196,875 for its share of expenses for the El Dorado Water and Power Authority’s pursuit of water rights for this SMUD reservoir storage.

EID gets a break on state conservation rule

By Michael Raffety

Mountain Democrat, 2-26-14

The El Dorado Irrigation District will get extra credit for using recycled water in meeting the state’s requirement to reduce water consumption 20 percent by 2020.

Legislation passed in 2009 set that 20 percent by 2020 rule.

EID is meeting that goal in part by using as its baseline the daily per capita water use in the 10-year period of 1997-2006. It did that because recycled water supply was less than 10 percent of its total supply in 2008. Out of the four methods offered by the state Department of Water Resources, EID chose Method No. 1 that calculated 80 percent of the base daily per capita use.

That baseline per capita use was 281 gallons per capital daily. That method, along with the baseline calculation mentioned above, was accepted by the state in 2012 after EID submitted its 2010 Urban Water Management Plan.

So how are the district and its customers doing? Currently they are using a little above 240 gallons daily per capita. That is below the 2015 goal of 253 gpcd, but above the 2020 target of 225 gpcd.

The trend has been downward. EID’s 10-year average gallons per capita daily is 277, the five-year average is 254 and the three-year average is 242.

Those figures will trend lower if EID succeeds in getting the state Water Quality Control Board to reduce the amount of recycled water EID is required to send down Deer Creek from 1 million gallons per day to 500,000 gallons per day. That extra half million gallons per day then can be sent into the recycled water system instead of supplementing it with potable water during the summer irrigation season. The more new recycled water customers EID hooks up in El Dorado Hills, the lower its per capita consumption becomes incrementally.

EID seeks to keep more of Deer Creek’s recycled water

Michael Raffety

Mountain Democrat, 2-26-14

“Give us back our water,” the El Dorado Irrigation District will ask of the state water board.

On a 4-0 vote, with Director George Osborne absent, the EID board Monday approved a two-pronged plan for the Wastewater Treatment Plant to quit sending 1 million gallons of high-quality recycled water down the creek every day.

The first element is for EID to seek a temporary exemption from that requirement because of the drought. During the irrigation season it will save 300 out of the average of 436 acre-feet of potable water that are used to supplement the recycled water sold to homes in Serrano, Serrano Golf Course and subdivisions along Latrobe Road. That savings would come from cutting the discharge into Deer Creek in half to 0.5 million gallons per day.

Because of the governor’s emergency drought declaration the district can get a temporary exemption from the 1 mgd requirement for 180 days, with the possibility of one renewal should another drought year follow this one.

The second prong is a longer-term effort to get that 1 mgd cut in half permanently. That requires a petition to the State Water Quality Control Board, a formal environmental review and a hydrology study.

The benefit is a $210,000 savings to the district by substantially reducing the high cost of potable water that it has to sell at the lower recycled water rate as a supplement to meet all the recycled water needs. Potable water costs $1,200 per acre-foot compared to $500 per acre-foot for recycled water, according to Elizabeth Wells, engineering manager for wastewater and recycled water.

The case for the permanent reduction in discharge into Deer Creek is being aided by Dr. Michael Bryan of Robertson-Bryon Inc. Bryan is an aquatic toxicologist, who has consulted on a number of issues relating to the Deer Creek WWTP and has saved the district millions by convincing the state water board not to impose various new discharge requirements. He has been consulting on Deer Creek for 19 years.

Of the 1992 hearings that forced the district into discharging 1 mgd from the Deer Creek plant, Wells said, “We felt the evidence was loosely based and not based on scientific evidence.”

Bryan is providing that evidence, first by doing a detailed hydrologic analysis of Deer Creek. “I’m really impressed by the quality of the modeling,” Wells said.

In discussion with California Department of Fish and Wildlife, it was suggested that EID demonstrate that the creek was historically ephemeral downstream of the plant that was built in 1974, document the extent of surface flows downstream and what would be required to maintain the aquatic community.

What has been completed so far is a hydrologic analysis, gathering of current and past ecological information and development of a hydraulic model for Deer Creek.

That included collection of aerial photos from 1954 through 1973, which show that the riparian vegetation and ecological sources downstream of the sewer plant were doing just fine on their own. Bryan said the water went subsurface during the summer.

“No decrease in riparian density or corridor length is expected under 0.75 or 0.5 mgd scenarios, relative to the existing 1 mgd scenario,” Wells wrote in her report.

The next phase is doing an EIR that would be completed in late 2014 or early 2015. The final phase would be seeking a change in discharge petition from the State Water Quality Control Board.

At the Feb. 24 meeting, the board approved a nearly $26,000 contract for RBI and capitalized labor costs of nearly $30,000 for Wells, Wastewater Operations Manager Vicki Caulfield and Assistant General Counsel Brian Poulsen.

The EIR and petition were budgeted for $300,000 in the next three years of the current five-year Capital Improvement Plan. Wells indicated it could be half that cost if the district’s petition is not protested.

“It’s a water supply enhancement project,” said General Manager Jim Abercrombie.

“We will show there is a higher and better use of the water,” Bryan said.

100-year lifetime: Flume 41 totally rebuilt

By Michael Raffety

Mountain Democrat

One of El Dorado Irrigation District’s biggest and most complicated flume projects is complete with the exception of some mechanical, electrical instrumentation and control work still under way, though the canal has been watered back up.

Project engineer Daryl Noel gave a report to the Board of Directors Jan. 27, including dramatic video footage of two contract workers, secured by safety lines, jack hammering a huge boulder on the hillside, which then rolled downhill and crashed into a section of wooden flume that was to be demolished anyway.

The wood from the flume timbers proved to be so rotten that it could not be recycled as originally planned.

Removing hazardous boulders and trees on the uphill side of the flume to protect the replacement flume against damage was one of the elements that added expense to the project.

The $5.8 million project replaced 700 feet of rickety wooden flume with cast concrete flume sections and relined 600 feet of canal. Also replaced with a concrete structure was Spillway 23. That spillway, part way into the 700-foot-long Flume 41, was a wooden structure whose supporting posts were resting on rocks placed on an unstable slope.

The flume had been relined by PG&E in 1948. Plywood had been added in 1978 to extend its life until a more permanent project could be implemented.

The concrete flume section will have a 100-year lifespan, according to Noel.

Flume replacements, whether concrete or wooden, are done in October when water to the El Dorado Canal is shut off until December.

Work on Flume 41 actually started in the summer, enabled by having previously spent $1.5 million to upgrade and extend Rock Crusher Road, which saved paying $13,000 an hour for helicopter service to bring in equipment and concrete flume sections. Total helicopter services for the construction project would have been $1.5  million-$2 million, according to Noel. Additionally, the new road provides access to other canal sections and saved having to pay a helicopter to remove empty propane tanks and replace them with full ones to run a generator that operates Spillway 23. Now the propane delivery truck can drive to the new generator shed’s propane tanks.

The work done by contractor ProVen during the summer was to stabilize 450 feet of stacked rock wall serving as a base for the flume since 1876. Two years prior Carlton Engineering had drilled into the stacked rock wall and found it to be stable with minimal voids — 30 percent. Carlton and EID engineering staff came up with an innovative design that saved $700,000-$900,000 by not having to replace the stacked rock foundation.

The work done in the summer was to cover the stacked rock wall with rebar and shotcrete. After the shotcrete set up, holes were drilled all the way through the stacked rock wall and into solid granite behind the rock wall. Anchor bolts were inserted and shocrete pumped into the tubes to bind the anchor bolts to wall and base rock.

After the wooden flume was demolished, holes were drilled from the top of the rock wall at 20-foot intervals and shotcrete was pumped in to fill the voids in the stacked rock wall. The rebar-and-shotcrete exterior wall kept the vertically injected shotcrete contained within the stacked rock.

Upstream of Spillway 23 the flume base for 250 feet was unstable. The contractor dug down to base rock and anchored a concrete retaining wall to the base rock and also to the new concrete base for Spillway 23.

On top of the concrete retaining wall another wall of MSE (Mechanically Stabilized Earth), held in by a stepped formation of wire cages, brought the level up to that needed for the concrete flume foundation.

The flume is part of the 22-mile-long El Dorado Canal, which brings water from four alpine reservoirs at 8,000 feet elevation. The water is captured by a diversion dam on the South Fork of the American River near Kyburz and sent into the canal. The whole system, called Project 184, provides one-third of the district’s water and serves customers all the way to El Dorado Hills in the winter when the pumps from Folsom Lake are normally shut down. It also runs a 21-megawatt powerhouse. Water rights associated with Project 184 date to 1856.

EID’s 2014-2018 Capital Improvement Plan lists two major flume projects — Flume 52A estimated at $1.7 million in 2017 and Flume 42-43 estimated at $3.2 million in 2018.

Replacing the El Dorado Conduit, a rusted pipeline clinging to the side of a granite wall and bringing water from Echo Lake to the South Fork of the American River, is estimated to cost $800,000, including engineering and materials.

Replacing the Camp 2 Bridge this year is estimated to be $1 million. In its current condition it cannot support heavy machinery, only pedestrians and a quad runner.

Five flume projects are under study — Flumes 45, 4, 44, 47 and 48.

“What we are doing at this time is reviewing the remaining flumes that are a high priority for replacement to determine the most feasible method for replacement.  That includes replacement with wood, concrete, or bypass with a tunnel. Who will perform the work will be determined later. The current CIP has each flume identified, but that is subject to change based on the upcoming feasibility report.  The board will receive an information item at the Feb. 24 meeting on the subject,” said Cindy Megerdigian, EID water and hydro engineering manager in an e-mail.

The list of tentatively scheduled meetings included on the Jan. 27 board agenda shows feasibility studies for Flumes 42-48 as an information item on the Feb. 24 agenda and again on the March 10 agenda.

Caples Dam gates

Caples Dam gates nearly done

By Michael Raffety

Mountain Democrat

Friday, Jan. 17, Ballard Diving and Syblon Reid Construction had installed one of two new dam gates and were set to install the second by the end of that day.

The $329,000 construction project is on-schedule, according to El Dorado Irrigation District senior engineer Jake Eymann, with the sunny weather smoothing the way. Normally a cold wind blows at Caples Lake, Eymann said, but Friday was windless.

The deadline had been to complete the project before February to allow the gates to open for spring runoff, according to the Nov. 8, 2013, presentation Eymann made to the Board of Directors, which authorized the negotiated contract project. Syblon Reid had installed the gates five years before when the weather was snowier and colder at 7,900 feet elevation.

Eymann, whose primary engineering mission for EID is dam safety, had called for the gate replacement after the lower dam gate became stuck and was releasing 9 cubic feet per second from Caples Lake. Eymann called for replacing the upper gate as a precaution, since the actual gate was a small part of the project cost.

However, when the upper gate was pulled out it was found to have been damaged as well.

“It was a pretty disturbing finding,” Eymann said.

The gates had been installed in 2008 using a polyethylene/neoprene seal system. Looking at the removed gates, it was obvious the seals had failed, with pieces of the seals sticking out of the gates. The lower gate — 60 feet below the dam — had vibrated so much that the seal at the bottom of the gate was completely gone.

The second dam gate is 20 feet below the dam.

The two replacement gates were estimated to cost $11,000. This time the gates were constructed with 50 percent more steel and concrete encased by steel in the bottom of each gate. The steel-encased concrete at the bottom of the gate would create better fluid dynamics, Eymann said. The seals this time are made of UHM polyethylene. The new seal material will allow more leakage but is 50 percent larger than the old seals and will be sturdier and more resistant to vibration.

The gates were manufactured with the advice of Dr. B.T.A. Sagar, associated with GEI Consultants. That contract was $42,000. Dr. Sagar is chairman of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Gates Committee and founding member of the U.S. Committee on Large Dams’ Subcommittee on Gates and Valves.

Eymann said Sagar’s conclusion that vibration was the cause of the lower gate’s failure was spot-on.

To allow the divers to work in the confined space and water that is 37-38 degrees Fahrenheit air is pumped down to the diver by hose instead of air tanks and heated water is pumped around their dive suits. To shut off the flow through the dam outlet a bulkhead is bolted onto the dry side of the outlet gates via an access shaft. After the bulkheads are attached the gates can be removed and replaced by the construction divers.

Divers spend 60-90 minutes in shifts, taking breaks to rise to 20 feet below the surface to avoid the bends. Fellow dive crew members monitor the diver on a video with audio link.

Fish flows into Caples Creek are maintained by a bypass that pumps 5.5 cubic feet per second (about 2,500 gallons per minute) out of Caples Lake. To float the 10-inch intakes for the pumps required Syblon Reid to cut the 3-4-inch-thick ice out with chain saws, Eymann said.

Despite the sunny weather the ice remained thick enough to support ice fishermen who walk out on the lake’s frozen surface.

Eymann said he would be back Monday to test the gates. The dam gates are raised manually via reduction gears. There is no power at the valve house, though PG&E is bringing power to the west end of Caples Lake, where Kirkwood Ski Resort has a water intake for its snow making equipment.

Syblon Reid will demobilize Friday, Jan. 24.

Eymann has worked for EID 14 years. He previously worked for the Division of Dams Safety, which overseas 1,400 dams in the state. EID has 10 dams, five of which are also overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as well as DSOD. Eymann is EID’s chief engineer for dam safety, keeping track of hundreds of dam safety regulatory requirements, including FERC’s requirement that EID hire a dam safety consultant every five years, from whose report EID must create a plan within 60 days to implement the findings.

Caples Lake Dam was built in 1917 and completed in 1923.

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