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Agency declares water shortage emergency

Temporary, permanent fixes coming in June, PG&E says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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The Placer County Water Agency has declared a water shortage emergency to try to get repairs made to the Bear River Canal as soon as possible. Local irrigation water customers also now have an answer about when their supplies will start flowing normally. The PCWA board of directors declared a water shortage emergency in its Thursday afternoon meeting to aid PG&E in expediting the construction process, said Dave Carter, spokesman for PCWA “PG&E was having permitting issues,” said Einar Maisch, director of strategic affairs for PCWA. “But an emergency declaration they thought might help alleviate the permitting hurdles that they have.” Mike Jones, acting vice president of power generation for PG&E, said in the meeting Thursday that by early June the company will be able to restore 30 to 50 cubic feet per second of water through a temporary bypass. PCWA normally receives 244 cfs from the Bear River Canal for its customers from Applegate down to the eastern part of Rocklin. Final construction with a full flow of water is expected to be completed by the end of June. Jones could not give specific dates of when construction would start. The action stems from an April 19 break in the Bear River Canal, which is affecting about 4,800 irrigation customers, both with PCWA and the Nevada Irrigation District. To bypass or not? Alvin Thoma, director of power generation for PG&E said previously that a temporary bypass was expected to bring 150 to 200 cfs back into PCWA and NID canal systems. “PG&E came in today before the board meeting and told us what they have discovered is the length of time it takes to get to 150 and 200 cfs and the length of time it takes to get to the full capacity of the canal, are identical,” Maisch said Thursday afternoon. Maisch said PG&E told PCWA they could put a pipe through the system, which could delay permanent construction for about a week but bring the 30 to 50 cfs. “My response was we have such a critical issue in the upper system, upper Zone 1 system, that I would give up a week delay in the full project to get 50 cfs in the upper Zone 1,” Maisch said. “Unfortunately it sounds like they downsized the bypass, but that’s not really accurate.” Maisch said the idea of the bypass has changed, because it is only needed for about two weeks until permanent construction is completed. PG&E representatives have said they plan to start pouring concrete into the chasm below the break Monday to facilitate the start of construction. Jones said Thursday PG&E was using a helicopter to fly some hazardous trees away from the site to make the area safer for construction workers. Water delivery alternatives Jones said PG&E is drawing water out of Rollins Reservoir, which is north of the canal break, and has eight 4,000-gallon tanks to deliver additional water to PCWA storage and conveyance sites. “We should be able to start supplying some water by later today,” Jones said at Thursday’s meeting. PCWA Director Gray Allen said he appreciated the effort, but wanted the temporary flow to be ready sooner. Jones said PG&E had looked at ways to make that happen, but the steep terrain and damage to the canal makes it so a bypass would get water to PCWA sooner. “We have looked at a number of alternatives, including pumping from the Bear River itself,” Jones said. PCWA Director Ben Mavy agreed that June is a long time to wait for temporary water. “To have to wait two months to get water after a break, I hope we have a better plan next time,” Mavy said. “There better not be a next time, I guess.” Denny Boyles, spokesman for PG&E, said he hopes the actions will provide some help to PCWA and NID customers, which are usually also PG&E electric customers. “I think that everyone seems, I wouldn’t say happy, but at least satisfied with the progress,” Boyles said. “I know it’s a really small percentage, but with the trucking as well we are hoping we will hit some customers’ needs that are great or more immediate, and … we are going to let them guide us on that.” Customers still concerned PCWA customers are still sharing concerns about how the situation is affecting them. Jeff Rieger, who owns Penryn Orchard Specialties, said Thursday he has to run six irrigation cycles by June 1, which will be difficult because he is never sure when exactly he is going to get his water through PCWA’s alternating outages. Rieger said cutting his water in half through the outages either means that he has to let half his trees die to produce some kind of crop or he has to keep all of his trees alive but not produce a crop. “For me I can probably keep them alive, but I won’t make any money,” Rieger said. “This is really, really an emergency. My system is completely maxed out. I have got six irrigation cycles by June 1. You guys have got to get some water on.” Mike Nichol, director of field services for PCWA, said it is difficult to say exactly when different customers will have water again after an outage, because the water has to flow down a canal and reaches customers at different times and could get clogged by leaves and other debris. Maisch said PCWA is working on a number of alternatives to get water to people at the end of canals, including requesting that the Nevada Irrigation District try to provide additional cfs in the Rock Creek Reservoir, which is currently feeding irrigation customers in the city of Auburn down to Newcastle. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------ Upcoming PCWA public hearing On May 10 the agency is conducting a public hearing to declare a state of emergency. At 5:30 p.m. the meeting will begin at Auburn’s Holiday Inn on Grass Valley Highway and then adjourn to Placer Hall at the Gold Country Fairgrounds. PCWA staff will be available with maps to answer questions at the fairgrounds from about 5:30-6 p.m. until the meeting officially starts. One topic of discussion is scheduled to be possible rate adjustments for irrigation customers, according to Dave Breninger, general manager of PCWA. If you are a PCWA or Nevada Irrigation District customer with little or no irrigation water, the Journal wants to hear from you. Contact reporter Bridget Jones at (530) 852-0235 or e-mail bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com. ------------------------------------------------------- Tips on conserving water PCWA is urging all of its treated water customers, especially those in the Auburn area and Service Zone 3, which runs from Alta to Applegate, to conserve as much water as possible to get a larger supply to irrigation water customers. The agency is hoping for a 10 percent cut in the use of treated water. · For landscaping: no watering during daylight hours, only water between sunset and sunrise. Only water three days per week, odd addresses Wednesday, Friday, Sunday and even addresses Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. Reduce the minutes an irrigation valve/station is running. Inspect landscape irrigation systems for leaks and adjust spray heads to minimize overspray and runoff · Wash vehicles using bucket and hose with a shutoff nozzle · Do not wash streets, sidewalks, parking lots or driveways · Drain and do not refill all decorative fountains, pools, ponds, streams and decorative waterways · If drained, do not refill swimming pools · Wash only full loads of laundry and dishes · Take shorter showers · Restaurants should serve water only upon request by customer · Take advantage of PCWA water conservation programs