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Board acts to protect water rights for county residents

Debra Moore
Staff Writer

It would be costly and difficult to haul 7,000 gallons of water a week to the top of Indian Falls, but that’s what could happen if the state curtails the Dawn Institute’s water rights.

The Dawn Garden and the residents of Indian Falls are just some of the many local water users applying for an exemption from the state’s curtailment because a spring is their sole source of water.

Terry Schwartz, who is the chief financial officer for the Dawn Institute, has been studying water options since he received a notice from the State Water Board at the end of May. A second notice arrived 30 days later.

“We responded appropriately,” he said. “This is our only source of water for the garden and residents, and for fire protection.”

The state-sent notice and questionnaire inquires about alternative water options including buying bottled water or hauling water via a commercial supplier.

Schwartz said residents use 1,050 gallons per day. If that water were to be purchased at the nearest retailer, Evergreen Market, it would cost $2,000 per day.

As for a potable water hauler, “there is only one in the county,” Schwartz said. “Big Mountain Water out of Quincy.”

The water would be purchased from the Indian Valley Community Services District and hauled to the 15,000-gallon storage tank at the top of Indian Falls.

Schwartz said the 2,000-gallon truck would need to make 3.5 trips to meet the 7,000-gallon per week demand of the garden and residents. “It’s roughly $800 per week,” for the cost of the water and the transportation.

Along with the Indian Falls residents, other small community water systems, seasonal lodges such as Gray Eagle Lodge, and individual homes are all potentially affected by the curtailment.

Supervisors react

Schwartz contacted Supervisor Kevin Goss when he received his notice, who in turn alerted Planning Director Randy Wilson and Environmental Health Director Jerry Sipe.

The trio discussed the issue with the full board of supervisors July 1. They asked the supervisors to ratify a letter that had already been sent to the state water board to meet its written comment deadline.

The three-page letter concluded with: “In summary, Plumas County requests that the Water Board grant immediate health and safety curtailment exemptions for diverters in Plumas County who use isolated springs where there is no other available source of water. We also request spring sources which capture water below ground, before reaching surface water or other waters of the state be excluded from the mandatory curtailment requirements.”

“We anticipated ag diversion,” Sipe told the supervisors during the meeting. “We were surprised it’s groundwater sources.”

During interviews following the meeting, both Sipe and Goss said they were optimistic that those who rely on springs for their sole source of water will be exempt from curtailment.

“They’re throwing a big net out and see what they get back,” Goss said of the state.

Notices were sent to 230 water rights holders in the county, including 40 domestic water supply users.

The county’s letter argues that the springs do not contribute to the state’s water supply, so therefore should be unaffected by the curtailment.

However, Sipe encourages everyone who received a notice and questionnaire to complete the information and return it to the state water board so that they can be exempted on an individual basis.

“There is a process for health and safety exemptions,” Sipe said. “We’re trying to make sure people are responding.”

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