PG&E says plan for fixes to Bear River Canal could come this week

Water agency still unsure what will happen with rates
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
PG&E officials said Wednesday they could have a plan soon for temporary and permanent fixes to the Bear River Canal that is currently leaving about 4,800 irrigation water customers with little or no water. Local residents who buy raw water continued to speak out about their concerns Wednesday. Kevin Goishi, a project manager with PG&E, said at the PCWA public meeting Wednesday evening that the company expects to have a plan for temporary bypass and permanent canal construction in the next day or two. Goishi said PG&E engineers and PCWA engineers have discussed a number of options for the fixes. Goishi said the canal has been in place since the 1960s, but elements of the project have been there for 100 years. The entire 21-mile canal is being inspected in the aftermath of the April 19 break just outside of Colfax. Goishi said PG&E plans to start filling in the chasm below the break with concrete Monday, and that the fill would take 2,000 to 3,000 yards of concrete, which would be transferred through Downtown Colfax. The concrete fill would aid in getting workers up as close as possible to the canal to be able to make repairs, Goishi said. Michelle Kubo, who lives near Shirland Tract on three acres of land, said she has very little ditch water coming through. Kubo lives at the end of her specific ditch. “We have pastures,” Kubo said. “We have a lot of plants. We have got several acres we keep irrigated with gravity flow water. If the supply doesn’t change, we absolutely will not be able to (take care of it). (We have) a lot of fruit trees and stuff like that, and they are all going to die.” Kubo said fire risk is also a concern with less ditch water coming through to keep pastures from drying out. Dave Breninger, general manager for PCWA, said the agency is trying to come up with ways to get water to customers who live at the end of ditch lines. These methods could include rotating 48-hour outages, which would give the water a longer time to flow to residents, and investigating whether or not the Nevada Irrigation District can put more water than it already is into Rock Creek Reservoir. The reservoir feeds irrigation customers in the city of Auburn down to Newcastle. Breninger said he hopes treated water customers, especially those in Zone 3, which runs from Alta to Applegate, will conserve as much water as possible to create a small surplus for irrigation water customers in upper Zone 1, which runs from Applegate to Newcastle. Without some sort of surplus, irrigation water customers in the northern part of the city of Auburn could run out of water, said Mike Nichol, director of field services for PCWA. Joe Parker, director of financial services for PCWA, said Wednesday before the meeting that PCWA is not currently selling any water out of Placer County and had no plans to do so before the canal break. “We are not having anything (go out of the county) this year,” Parker said. “When we sell the water it’s the surplus raw water we have. But we don’t have any surplus. We have a substantial shortage.” Parker said it is not clear whether or not ratepayers would have to keep paying full price for irrigation water while receiving only part or none of their normal supply. “That is to be determined,” Parker said. “I’m not sure. I know historically when there was a drought and they did something like this … the rates and charges were kept the same. This is a very unique circumstance. It’s something outside our control. It’s not our canal. I don’t know exactly how we are going to handle that. That is more of a policy issue for the board to determine.” Newcastle resident Richard Everett lives on Ridge Road and said he has been experiencing the rotating outages with varying amounts of water. “I have four acres of heavily planted fruit trees, ornamental trees and nine aviaries with geese and other native game birds,” Everett said. “The biggest issue is you do not know if you will be getting water even on your water day. I am near the end of the line, so whether I get water depends on usage above me. Thus, I cannot use the automated timers.” Reach Bridget Jones at ------------------------------------------------------- Upcoming PCWA meetings At 5:30 p.m. Thursday the agency is hosting a public meeting to address community questions and concerns. The Thursday meeting follows the board of directors’ regular 2 p.m. meeting. Meetings will be at the agency’s headquarters at 144 Ferguson Road in Auburn. 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. 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 ------------------------------------------------------ Keeping up-to-date on PCWA’s website Dave Breninger, general manager for Placer County Water Agency, said customers soon will be able to go on, click on the specific area in which they live on a map, find out what canal system they are a part of and whether or not they should be on an alternating outage at that specific time. ------------------------------------------------------ What is Placer County doing to help? Jennifer Montgomery, county supervisor for District 5, said because of the agricultural community in Placer County taking a loss of at least $10 million, the county is trying to get aid to farmers by requesting California Department of Agriculture grants or low-interest loans. Montgomery said the county is also communicating with state and federal representatives to remove any barriers PG&E faces to obtain the permits it needs for construction. The county is putting in its own request, separate from PCWA, to ask for a declaration of a state of emergency regarding the loss in agriculture. Montgomery said if this declaration is granted, Placer County could receive some monies from the state fund set up specifically for emergencies.