Wild & Scenic Mokelumne Update

Foothill Focus Newsletter
photo of Mokelumne River
North Fork Mokelumne River below Salt Springs Dam
1 of 16   Next Article
Conservancy action stops illegal expansion of Plymouth pipeline
Lands between Plymouth and Drytown currently used for grazing.
In December 2007, the Foothill Conservancy filed a notice of intent to sue the City of Plymouth and the ­Amador Water Agency over their plan to expand a proposed water pipeline to Plymouth without legally sufficient environmental review.

Following several negotiating sessions in which we pointed out the flaws in the agency’s approach, the agency board voted on March 10 to rescind the expansion and return to the original 12-inch pipe. The Plymouth City Council followed with a similar vote a few days later.

The water agency’s original plan to supply water to Plymouth with a 12-inch pipeline was intended to provide water for nearly 1,100 homes. We did not challenge that plan or the environmental review. There is no doubt Plymouth needs a reliable water supply.

However, last fall, the water agency and city chose to ­increase the diameter of the proposed water supply line to 16 inches. That upsizing could supply enough water for more than 2,600 homes, which could add nearly 15,000 more daily car trips to the Plymouth area than under the original 12-inch plan.

Expanding the pipeline was likely to fuel sprawl development, which destroys unique community character, damages the county’s visual quality, and destroys wildlife habitat. The potential for sprawl on sensitive lands led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to object to the expansion. We expressed our concerns as well, urging the city and water agency to conduct proper environmental review so that decision-makers could fully understand the environmental implications of the larger supply line.

Ignoring our concerns and those of the wildlife protection agency, the city and water agency approved the increase without adequate study or public review and comment. In response, we hired attorney Michael Graf of El Cerrito and prepared to file suit. At the same time, Graf notified both agencies that we were willing to work with them to resolve our concerns rather than going to court. The ensuing discussions led the agencies to return to the 12-inch pipe.

We commend the agency and city for returning to the smaller pipeline. But it’s a real shame that it took the threat of legal action on our part and thousands of dollars of legal fees paid by the agency, the city, and our organization to bring that about.

Had the agency and city listened to our concerns and worked with us early on, everyone could have saved time and money—and Plymouth’s pipeline would be that much closer to completion.

THE FOOTHILL CONSERVANCY  |  35 Court Street, Suite 1   Jackson, CA  95642  |  209-223-3508