Water planning moves to county planning department

Randy Wilson, left, and Bob Perreault, directors of the county’s planning and public works departments, respectively, testify at the board of supervisor’s special meeting Aug. 29 in Quincy. Wilson and Perreault are co-leaders of the Plumas County Flood Control & Water Conservation District discussed at the meeting. Photo by Steve Wathen

“Basic water and sewage infrastructure is necessary for the economic development of the county,” said Randy Wilson, director of the county planning department.

The Plumas County Board of Supervisors made the decision Aug. 29 to relieve the Plumas County Flood Control & Water Conservation District of all water planning responsibilities.

The planning department will assume responsibilities for applications for water-related grants, management of those grants and working with the Upper Feather River Regional Water Management Group and Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.

The board also authorized the planning department to contract with Hinman and Associates Consulting, Inc. for an amount not to exceed $25,000 for consulting assistance and to hire Leah Wills as a contract employee at a rate of $61.64 per hour.

Wilson noted that Wills, a water rights consultant from Grass Valley, had essentially led development of the Upper Feather River Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. He said Wills applied for grants, planned the meetings, oversaw the Upper Feather River Regional Water Management Group’s many working groups and maintained the group’s website.

The Plumas County Flood Control & Water Conservation District will continue to operate the Chester Flood Control Structure (the Super Ditch), finish the Lake Davis Water Treatment Plant (and its transfer to the city of Portola) and act as the county’s representative with the State Water Project.

Status of water-related grants

Wilson reported that water management grants from California Proposition 50 and Proposition 84 are now finished.

Prop. 50 resulted in $7 million to buy land for the Feather River Land Trust, repair local sewage and water treatment systems and study water in the Sierra Valley.

Prop. 84 provided $700,000 to update the Upper Feather River Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.

Plumas County has partnered with eight other mountain counties to apply for a California Prop. 1 water-planning grant for disadvantaged and Native-American communities.

Wilson noted that the county has many small special districts that don’t have the capacity to apply for and manage water improvement grants. The purpose of the Prop. 1 grant is to study how to build the capacity of those small districts so that they can apply for and manage grants.

Wilson said that Roger Diefendorf, executive director of the Plumas County Community Development Commission, is interested in pursuing funding for some of the projects listed in the Upper Feather River Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.

County hoping to tighten control on water

Supervisor Sherrie Thrall said, “We need to recognize that water and water planning is a huge piece of the future of Plumas County” and be willing to pay to assure that future.

The supervisors were concerned about the possibility that the Army Corp of Engineers will charge the county for part of the repairs on the Oroville Dam because of the county’s participation in the California Water Project.

Supervisor Lori Simpson remarked, “We are not being aggressive enough with our legal disputes with the state.” She argued that the county needed to have money available in case a suit had to be undertaken against the state.

Simpson also argued that the other counties involved with the Upper Feather River Integrated Regional Water Management Plan should be helping to pay for administration of the plan.

Simpson also requested that Wilson give the supervisors more frequent updates on water planning matters in the county, which he agreed to do.