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Saturday, April 17, 2010

West Sonoma County Water News & Issues

The following document included information that comes to the Gazette from Steve Mack, General Manager of the Sweetwater Springs Water District. I'm including it on our web site because it has information that applies to all Gazette readers - not just that particular water district.

Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) Petition to Change Water Rights Decision 1610. The Board heard a presentation from Pam Jeane, Operations Manager for SCWA, on SCWA’s Petition to Change Water Rights Decision 1610 which governs minimum flows in the Russian River. SCWA is petitioning the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce minimum flows in the River as one of the conditions of the Biological Opinion (BO) for endangered and threatened fish species in the Russian River. The BO states that the lower summer flows are needed to improve fish habitat in the lower River, specifically to keep the sand barrier at the mouth of the Russian River so that the estuary behind can have fresher water for the salmonid fish that spend the summer there.

Interested parties have until May 13, 2010 to protest the petition. A possible reason for a District protest is because the petition for flow changes does not go far enough – District staff believe Decision 1610 needs a comprehensive review because so much on the River has changed, in particular substantially reduced diversions from the Eel River. Ms. Jeane stated her opinion that the State Board would ultimately look at a more comprehensive analysis of the appropriate Russian River instream flows and that there would be many opportunities to participate in the process.

Draft FY 2010-11 Operating And Capital Budget – Analysis of Long-Term Effects Of Various Rate Strategies. District staff have proposed no rate increase for Fiscal Year 2011 (July 1, 2010 – June 30, 2011) because of a grant from the Sonoma County Redevelopment Agency supported by the Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee (RRROC) and the poor local economic situation. The Board had requested an analysis of the long-term effect on capital improvement program (CIP) funding without a rate increase this year. The analysis presented at the meeting showed that the District can forego a rate increase in FY11 and still maintain progress toward sustainable CIP funding even though there will be a dip in funding available for the CIP in FY11. Annual rate increases that generally track the consumer price index (CPI) can develop the revenue needed for this in following years.

The District will continue to seek grants to supplement ratepayer revenues which will help the District get to a sustainable level sooner.

Unneeded District Lands Strategy. The Board heard a presentation by staff on the progress on the District Lands Management Strategy. Staff have found that the local Recreation and Parks Districts and regional open-space-related agencies and organizations have plans and interests with which unneeded District lands could fit. The Board directed staff to implement the following strategy for unneeded District lands:

The District will divest itself of unneeded property with the purposes of:
〈 Proper management of lands
〈 Maintaining community values of river access and open space,
〈 Reducing District liability,
〈 Reducing staff time dealing with property issues,
〈 Producing income which is a goal but not a requirement.

1. Explore river access and trail possibilities with local Recreation and Park Districts
2. Keep revenue producing parcels (Mount Jackson tower sites)
3. For larger, back country parcels, follow up with open space agencies, if R&P Districts are not interested.
4. Engage broker to market remainder of unneeded properties.

District staff will be working with local agencies and other interested parties to implement the strategy.

Other items discussed and acted upon at the April meeting included introduction of an ordinance to address owner account nonpayment and meter tampering, and authorizing a contract for Monte Rio filter maintenance.

Items for the next meeting on May 7, 2010, include adoption of the FY2011 Budget, and further discussion and possible action on a protest regarding the Sonoma County Water Agency Petition to change Decision 1610.

More information on District services and programs are available on the District’s website at