Questionable Decisions at Water Agency 10-14-15

Wednesday, October 14, 2015 – 9:00 a.m.
4110 Business Drive, Suite B
(at corner of Durock Road and Business Drive

Shingle Springs, CA 95682

See the transcript from the 9-9-15 EDWPA Meeting below.

As per the following link, EDWPA’s October 14, 2015 agenda includes a planned Board vote as to whether EDWPA should partner with the City of Folsom in pursuing Folsom’s needs for more water rights to serve their growth; EDWPA’s Interim General Manager and consultants further have proposed that Folsom contribute $25,000 toward the projected $11 million cost to El Dorado County and EID for the new water application.

Transcript from 9-9-15 EDWPA Meeting:

Coco:  Snapshot of that particular point in time of how many users are affected.  It’s not for planning purposes.  It’s if the Integrated Water Resources Control Plan is for planning purposes.  Now, to reevaluate those numbers, I agree, it has to be reevaluated.  And we have to come up with appropriate projections.  But back to the business plan part of it to qualify that.  We just finished transferring water, selling water, EID did.  Placer County has been selling and transferring water for years now, they make about $8,000,000 a year from their water transfers.  Now, what you have to understand is, and I’m going to take this out of their terms and try to put it in our terms, you cannot obtain a water right unless you can demon-  once you retain a water right you have to demonstrate beneficial use.  If you don’t demonstrate beneficial use, you have about 3 years to demonstrate beneficial use.  Now for long term planning you get, you can say, no, I’m going to use this water 30 or 50 years, that’s ok, you can work with that, but you still have to demonstrate beneficial use.  Water transfers to districts that need water IS a beneficial use.  Now, what you cannot do is obtain water to sell it.  Now this all gets tangled up in California water law, and it gets tangled up on semantics.  So you can’t go out and say, I’m going to obtain this 40,000 acre feet of water and I plan to sell 20,000 acre feet of it.

Frentzen:  That’s what we’re doing.

Coco:  But you can’t say that. [laughter] You can’t say that. We just obtained 8,500 acre feet of water in Folsom Lake, ok?  We basically could sell all of it, but we can’t do that.  We can’t go to the agencies that we deal with and say, Ok, we’ve got 8,500 acre feet of water in Folsom Lake right now that we don’t need, so we’re going to sell it.  They’ll say, ha, sorry, no, we’re taking away your water right.  This is California water law, which is a book that’s 2 inches thick, in tiny, legal print.  What you can do, is say, I’m gonna obtain this water, and then, and I don’t know what kind of a word to use, but you say, I’m going to use this, what we’re doing is we’re using the 8,500 acre feet of water in Folsom Lake for El Dorado Hills.  We’re selling water from up the hill, but we couldn’t be doing that if we didn’t have the 8,500 acre feet of water in Folsom Lake.  So, when we start to do this, when we start to put together this plan, we’ll be moving water and groundbanking water and partnering with people for this 40,000 acre of water or 20,000 acre feet, however much we’re going to utilize and however much we’re going to store.  That will then free up water that we can sell.  It becomes a complex process.  We just walk through this process at EID.  And it can be done.  And as far as competition or the ease of selling the water, Westlands and Southern California will buy all the water they can get any year at any time.  They buy it in huge blocks, they buy it in 20 and 30,000 acre feet blocks, and they do it all the time.  Now, the process, you, it depends on how you move the water.  You have to deal with other agencies, you have to deal with the State Board, you have to deal with DWR, and there are hoops that you have to jump through.  But if you start to have a business plan for this water, then you’re dead in the water, because that’s the State Board will definitely not grant you the right and they’ll take the right away if they do grant it, and you’re obtaining the water simply to sell it.  So it’s a complex process.  It’s taken me a long time to figure it out and understand it, and I’m going to attend conferences this week, two day conference, more on water law in California and these types of issues.  But, I think one of the things that we’re stumbling with here, and I’m sorry to put this in blunt terms, is a lack of understanding of how the process works and what we’re dealing with.  And I think that we need to have maybe a more in depth educational process for the Board to understand the process, because you guys are doing an excellent job of presenting the data, but I’m not sure everyone understands the nuances that are involved.

Frentzen:  So, when we talk about spending $11,000,000, it was all the talk at this level was, we’re going to sell this money, we’re going to make more money from the water that we sell.  So, I don’t think there’s a misunderstanding of the project.  I think there are some other details that haven’t been talked about.

Veerkamp:  But I think those are the unknowns that these MOUs start laying the groundwork, and if we don’t get anywhere with those MOUs for laying that groundwork, we may be done.

Coco:  We can’t go farther.

Veerkamp:  Yeah, and that’s not only on the water use, but it’s on the environmental side, because remember, this is a multi-faceted approach to try to get it through the State Board in a complicated time that we’ve never seen before.  Director Ranalli, you’ve been patiently biting your lip.

Ranalli:  Well, you know, I’ve just, I want to kind of thread together some things that Commissioner Mikulaco said, some things we heard from Dr. Coco, uh, that which has been presented.  Um, you know, the public, we have had the opportunity of having similar discussions a couple of months ago when we discussed the MOU for the Rio Linda agreement.  And again, this seems very consistent, while I didn’t do a word match, it seems to be pretty much the same arrangement and MOU that we authorized for Rio Linda.  And again, I think Commissioner Mik said it, it allows, enables a dialogue on the use of applied-for water.  I think what we saw in the presentation today, speaks to some of the benefits to regionally connecting our watersheds, connecting together because some of our neighbors to the east have some, not only some needs, but they have some environmental imperatives that they can’t solve on their own.  And at the same time, we benefit from having the ability to connect the watersheds and do some banking and do some transfers until our needs kick in.  So, when you think about the infrastructure needed east to west, obviously you’ve got to overcome a lot of topography, you’ve got to pump it uphill.  I think that there’s more flexibility west to east.  We’ve got the benefit of gravity, you have some of the infrastructure that, the underpinnings of much of the infrastructure already in place, and I think it’s been identified that there’s a difference between diverting the water and stored water.  And so I think that there’s significant opportunities moving the water east to west, rather than west to east to connect the watershed, and the term ‘give it to Folsom’ was used several times, I believe that you meant ‘to Folsom Lake’ where the connectivity actually exists through some of these other regional partners, not ‘give it to Folsom’ for specific projects.  I just think that was something that needed to be made clear.  So, you know, if I’m incorrect in any of those remarks, then I sure would appreciate that.  I’m anxious to hear from the public.

Veerkamp:  I think one other point, too, and I’m open to take another look at it is SACOG’s 2036 projection of the MTP, which I sent to you guys draft to take a look at.  They’re calling for 811,000 population increase in the region in that time period.  I don’t see that obviously in El Dorado County, or a big chunk of that in El Dorado County, but if we don’t control this piece of the water, we’ll never see that water again, and if we ever want to do anything, we won’t have the ability to do it, and this water originates in our county.  I don’t know if that helps in a simplistic term and I know it’s your guys’ concern, but again for me, this water is our water and we should lay claim to it and we should get our hands on it and we direct how and where it goes.  Director Mikulaco.

Mikulaco:  Thank you, Chair.