Sunday, September 16, 2012

Off Beat: Yuba City's cup runneth over - Appeal-Democrat

September 15, 2012 11:30:00 PM

If you've been worried about Yuba City's water supply in the last few years, don't be. It's all good.

The city, after four years of litigation, says it has come up with a sweet deal with the state.

In 2008, the city, Butte County, Solano County Water Agency and Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District sued the Department of Water Resources in Sacramento County Superior Court.

The issue: How much water they were entitled to from the State Water Project. The plaintiffs claimed they were entitled to their full allotment before anybody south of the Delta.

May not sound very sexy, but when you get most of your water from Lake Oroville, and there's a tug of war during dry years, it's a big deal.

The city, according to a memo from Senior Engineer Ian Pietz to the City Council for its Tuesday meeting, won some significant concessions in the case.

"Without this settlement, the city would need to obtain additional water rights as soon as 2015 to meet its water needs during drought conditions," Pietz writes. "Through judicious use of the city's current water supplies and the increased supply and reliability of this proposed settlement, the city should have sufficient water supplies to meet all of its water needs through buildout of the city."

At full buildout, the city will need 33,000 acre-feet of water annually, about double current demand.

"It is critical for the city to secure reliable water rights during the summer months to be able to meet future water needs," Pietz writes.

The deal calls for the city to have increased water supply reliability of as much as 25 percent above current allocations, a bank of 20,000 acre-feet of additional water for the city's use, plus more water diversions during the summer.

The city, in turn, won't file for a new water right before 2027.

"The terms are very beneficial to the city," Pietz writes. "The city is obtaining greater water supply reliability through this proposed settlement than it could attain through continued litigation."

What's the money angle? Absent the settlement, Pietz says, the city would need to secure 9,000 acre-feet of additional supply, costing as much as $2.7 million annually.

Interestingly, according to Pietz's memo, the City Council discussed the "agreement in principle" in closed session on May 15 and approved it.

It was kept secret, however, until all the parties had signed off, which finally happened on Aug. 31. Final documents with the state are being hammered out.

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