Tuesday, October 3, 2023

The Potter Valley Project Puzzle, Consolidating Water Districts, A Bill for $50K Gives Pause—Highlights from the Redwood Valley County Water District Meeting

A waterway in Redwood Valley[Photo by afletch4141 via their Flickr account]

On Thursday, August 17, 2023, the Redwood Valley County Water District Board Meeting discussed the Masonite test well site, consolidation of the water districts, Russian River Water Forum, and possible annexation into Russian River Flood Control.

General Manager Jared Walker reported that the District is pumping a lot of water. Redwood Valley’s domestic rationing has been lifted. Ag users are filling up ponds. It looks like this year will be a late harvest, so ag water sales should continue.

The Board discussed the Russian River Water Forum Planning Group meeting that took place earlier in the day. (The RRWF is a coalition of entities formed for two purposes: 1) to take over the PG&E Diversion facilities that send Eel River water through a tunnel into the Russian River, and 2) to restore the health of the Eel River fisheries.)

Three entities on the Planning Group, Sonoma Water, Mendocino County Inland Power and Water Commission, and Round Valley Indian Tribes, submitted a Proposal to PG&E regarding the purchase of the diversion facilities. Representatives for other entities on the Planning Group expressed dismay that they were excluded from the negotiations.

PG&E had requested that a proposal be submitted by July 31, and the three entities that submitted the proposal had an NDA with PG&E. The short time frame, and the NDA, were the reasons given for not including the entire Planning Group. The diversion of the future may end up only pumping water through the tunnel three or four months of the year during the rainy season, so as to protect the fish in the Eel River.

Still to be worked out are water rights, financing of the facility takeover and remodel water conservation and governance issues. The next RRWF meeting is scheduled for September 7.

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Walker reported that consolidation of the individual water districts managed by Willow with the City of Ukiah is progressing, and counsel is working on the documentation. The Ukiah Valley Groundwater Sustainability Plan was approved by the state. The proposed well at the Masonite site, owned by Millview, that will pump water for Redwood Valley should be scheduled for drilling in the Fall and the attorneys are finalizing the agreement between Millview and Redwood Valley.

Walker reported that the water treatment plant is up and running. The new solar plant installation should commence soon. The equipment has been delivered and they are waiting on the contractor. A privacy fence will be installed to deter vandalism and keep dust off the solar panels.

The Board discussed the June invoice for $50,000 from the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission (Redwood Valley is a member of that organization). This has been tabled for two months. Director Tom Schoeneman questioned whether the money is being used to benefit Redwood Valley’s specific concerns, and the Board discussed whether Redwood Valley should pay the entire amount of the invoice. The Board would like to see a breakdown of how the money is being allotted. The Board tabled the discussion of the invoice until next month and directed GM Walker to ask for an itemized breakdown of how the funds are being used.

Board President Adam Gaska recommended that the District submit a request to be annexed into Russian River Flood Control. The opposing view is that if and when the District is consolidated with Ukiah, there should be ample water available, and we won’t need water from Flood Control.

Gaska said that joining Flood Control would provide a stable source of ag water, putting Redwood Valley in line with other Flood Control customers, instead of having to ask for surplus water not used by other customers. There is a waiting list of other users who want to annex with Flood Control, which has access to a pool of water in Lake Mendocino. Some Flood Control customers have multiple water rights to Russian River water. A Flood Control customer could have riparian rights, appropriative rights, and rights to purchase water from Flood Control. Because rights holders self-report how much water they are pumping, and due to the complex nature of the water rights, it is difficult to track how much of the pumped water should be allocated to Flood Control. Some Flood Control contract holders would be supportive of Redwood Valley joining Flood Control because they don’t use all their water and could sell some unused water while keeping their rights.

The next meeting is scheduled for September 21, 2023 at 5:00 pm.

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Monica Huettl
Monica Huettl
Mendocino County Resident, Annoying Horse Girl.

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