In November 2015 the Amador Water Agency contracted with water planning and engineering firm RMC to carry out a long-term demand study. The study is intended to evaluate the agency’s future water needs, supply options and the potential effects of Wild and Scenic designation of the Mokelumne River. The agency will also use it to help inform the Wild and Scenic-related water supply evaluation called for in Assembly Bill 142 (see article on page one) and to help with the required periodic update of the agency’s Urban Water Management Plan.
We commend the agency for taking a hard look at its future water demands. As the study proceeds, we’ll be closely monitoring how it’s carried out and the assumptions used by the contractor. The agency has a history of overstating future water demand and in its effort to justify building more storage in the Mokelumne system, may be tempted to inflate that demand.
We also want to make sure that RMC properly evaluates how state Wild and Scenic designation could affect future water projects. In his presentation to the AWA board on November 12, RMC Principal Dave Richardson’s presentation wrongly assumed permanent river protection would preclude specific future reservoir expansion projects on tributary streams or upstream of Salt Springs Reservoir, as well as obtaining storage space in PG&E’s Mokelumne River reservoirs.
That concerned us, since nothing in the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act or related state regulations would automatically do that. If the river is designated Wild and Scenic, the State Water Resources Control Board will evaluate any proposed projects on tributaries or upstream of the designated section to ensure they don’t harm the free-flowing condition and natural character of the river or its outstanding recreation, scenic, water quality, and cultural resource values.
Projects the agency is considering for existing reservoirs would not necessarily harm the Mokelumne or its resources. The projects’ effects on the river would depend largely on how the agency planned to operate the expanded reservoirs, something that isn’t known now and won’t be known by the end of the demand study. However, as part of the MokeWISE program (see last issue of Focus), the agency agreed to explore these options “consistent with existing uses, licenses, operating goals and norms adopted by the PG&E Ecological Resources Committee for implementation of the Project 137 FERC license, and permits.” That will help ensure that any future agency project will protect the river and we will not lose the ground we have gained in terms of improving river conditions over the last 25 years.
The study will include public meetings, so please stay tuned and be sure to participate to make sure the study is accurate and reflects your concerns.