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Fallout from canal break rushes into town

24-hour outages, 50-percent cuts in water plaguing Loomis businesses
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Editor
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Repairs on the Bear River Canal began this week as Loomis Basin irrigation customers started experiencing rolling outages. Placer County Water Agency officials declared a water emergency this week after a landslide took out a section of the canal that supplies locals with both irrigation ditch water and treated water. John Nitta, owner of High Ranch wholesale nursery in Loomis, said his business has been experiencing rolling 24-hour outages. “This is an unprecedented outage,” Nitta said of the 50 percent cut he’s seen in his irrigation water supplied by PCWA. “We’ve been in business for 35 years and the only time we saw cuts to our water supply was in the late 1970s during a drought. They cut us back 20 percent,” he said. The water outages, Nitta said, are costing him in additional labor and in the diesel fuel required to pump water from the three reservoirs on his property. He said pumping also causes silt clogs in his filters. Nitta said in this “tight market” he must absorb the extra costs incurred from the water outages because he can’t pass it on to his customers. Vicky Morris, owner of Secret Ravine Winery, said she and her husband, Ron, manage vineyards in Loomis, Penryn and Auburn and normally don’t start irrigating the vines until June. She said all the vines are on drip lines that normally run during the middle of the night and are on an eight-day rotation. They use both irrigation canal water and pumped well water to maintain the wine grapes. “We’re waiting for the outage schedule, but we’ll have to rely on well water until the canal is repaired,” Morris said. PG&E officials said a temporary bypass for the canal is expected by early June and a permanent fix by the end of June. Grant Koch, vineyard manager at Clos du Lac, said it would “be fantastic” if canal repairs can be completed by the end of June and water rationing and conservation would end. Koch said the Loomis development relies on PCWA water to maintain 10 acres of grapes grown in the common area. Denny Boyles, spokesman for PG&E, said the company hoped to begin pouring concrete this week in the chasm below the break. The concrete will eventually act as a support base for the fixed canal. PG&E representatives said the cost of the repairs is expected to be over $1 million. For more information, contact PCWA at (530) 823-4850.