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Montecito backs out of Round Valley water purchase

Samantha P. Hawthorne
Staff Writer
8/10/2014

Indian Valley won’t be selling Round Valley Reservoir water to Montecito — at least not this year.

The Montecito Water District’s general manager said last week that his district needs the water sooner than the Indian Valley Community Services District could deliver it.


What makes the 2014-15 budget shortfall

Figures from budget consultant Susan Scarlett

Specific revenue difference

Amount

Comment

Teeter penalty

$ 663,275

May or may not be available

Cost plan reduction

351,934

This amount will not change

Engineering

57,060

Reduction in revenue

AG commissioner

42,720

Reduction in revenue

Subtotal

1,114,989













Additional fund balance requested







Sheriff

876,870

These amounts are similar to amounts requested in 13-14 but sheriff closed that budget gap with the use of Assembly Bill 443 and other transfers

Jail

170,967




Probation

78,699

Still working on this one for possible Senate Bill 678 transfers, etc.

Facility services

168,513

This is mainly projects

Additional contribution requests

113,446

Not included in the budget but would use that much fund balance if approved

Department use of fund balance

336,132

Departments not specifically stated above

Subtotal

1,744,627




Total revenue difference and fund balance use

2,882,099







“We needed water now, so we purchased it from others,” MWD general manager Tom Mosby said.

The IVCSD had a tentative deal with MWD that would have transferred 1,000 acre-feet of water from Round Valley in exchange for $500,000.

Michael Jackson, the attorney hired by IVCSD to handle the water transfer negotiations, said the cutoff to complete water transfers is Sept. 30.

He said after the board meeting last month he met with all of the agencies involved in the transfer, with the exception of IVCSD. Present were representatives from Montecito Water District; the Central Coast Water Authority, which distributes water after it arrives south of the Delta; and the Department of Water Resources, which handles Oroville and Delta pumps.

They discussed several issues relating to the transfer, including delays surrounding the recovery efforts for the endangered Delta smelt, and timing delays on the part of IVCSD.

Also, in order for the DWR to approve a transfer, many factors have to be considered. Environmental impacts and carriage losses have to be carefully studied, and certain reports have to be filed.

According to Mosby, Indian Valley Community Services District — the Round Valley Reservoir water rights owner — has not filed any of the environmental reports required by the DWR.

IVCSD general manager Jesse Lawson explained that before his district can do so, he has to install equipment to monitor the transfer, and determine potential carriage losses. He said he was waiting for more information from Jackson before moving forward.

Mosby said that transfers happening above the Delta lose about 35 percent of the water because of evaporation and other factors. He added it is unknown how much water would evaporate between Round Valley and Lake Oroville.

Mosby said a recent transaction between Montecito and Biggs West-Gridley Water District was expected to experience a 35 percent loss as the water crossed the Delta into San Luis Reservoir.

The Biggs West-Gridley Water District had already completed all required reports and filings before its deal with Montecito closed in May. That water is not expected to arrive until later this month.

“The window for water transfers such as this is rapidly closing,” said Mosby. He said the Department of Water Resources told him a transfer from IVCSD would unlikely be completed by the cutoff in September.

“As such, the Montecito Water District is looking at other water purchases that are more viable and not subject to carriage losses, etc.,” he said.

Mosby said his district is expecting to exhaust its water supplies by February, so they had to act quickly. He said MWD has purchased more than 2,000 acre-feet of water from several different contractors in recent months.

Jackson said, given the issues at hand, it became clear that it would be impossible to transfer all of the purchased water before the transfer window closed.

He said last month’s discussion concluded in a joint decision to hold off on sending 1,000 acre-feet of the reservoir water downstream.

Jackson said that if it chooses to do so, the board could resume transfer negotiations when the window for transfer opens again. He said if the drought continues, the window is likely to open July 1, 2015, and end again Sept. 30, 2015.

In the meantime, he said the district would have plenty of time to research environmental impacts and potential water-rights issues.

He said the biggest disadvantage in delaying the process is a possible decline in the amount of money the district earns.

He said this year’s rate for water north of the Delta is $500 per acre-foot, which is four times higher than the usual rate of $125 – $150. “There is no telling what it could be next year,” said Jackson.

Although the water sale would have earned some much-needed cash for the Indian Valley CSD, many residents are against the plan.

News that the water transfer wouldn’t happen was met with split reactions. While some were exclaiming their happiness, others were expressing their disappointment.

Several community members opposing the sale suggested those feeling the same celebrate. Local rancher Harry Rogers said, “By stopping the transfer of Indian Valley water to some wealthy downstream city we have every reason to celebrate … preserving our precious Round Valley Lake is a huge reason to (do so.)”

Rogers also expressed his wishes — and, according to him, those of others as well — that IVCSD would revert back to using Round Valley water for municipal purposes, rather than the well water it is using now.

Still others said the deal would have been beneficial for recouping the loss the CSD experienced from the former general manager’s embezzlement.

Community member Tanya Henrich said, “The way I see this is that through this next winter the water that will be flowing through the dam will be the usual water — flowing for free — down the creeks to the Feather River, to Oroville.

“Little ol’ IVCSD will get nothing for the same flow of water that might have pulled us out of debt. There is nothing to celebrate here!”

Mosby said although he will not be pursuing the current IVCSD transfer, he hopes to build a relationship with the district for future transfers of small quantities of water. Mosby said MWD and IVCSD have discussed the possibility of transferring water on an annual basis, possibly at 500 acre-feet a year.

Jackson confirmed that building a relationship with Montecito is a possibility. He said the amount transferred annually, if any, would be determined by how much water was available from Round Valley, and how much Montecito needed.

Both Lawson and IVCSD board director Jane Braxton Little said they had no knowledge of this potential plan.

Little said she suspects Jackson has been exploring all possibilities available to the district on its behalf, and she expects a more in-depth conversation during the next CSD board meeting.


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