Sunday, July 21, 2024

Why Would North Coast Residents Pay $500 Million to Have Less Water?—Letter to the Editor


Welcome to our letters to the editor/opinion section. To submit yours for consideration, please send to matthewplafever@gmail.com. Please consider including an image to be used–either a photograph of you or something applicable to the letter. However, an image is not necessary for publication.

Remember opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of MendoFever nor have we checked the letters for accuracy.

Screenshot from PG&E webinar invitation, Scott Dam at Lake Pillsbury

Dear Editor-

Somebody should ask San Rafael’s Congressional Representative, Jared Huffman. 

A group led by Huffman is promoting the destruction of our regional water infrastructure. Their aim is to substantially reduce our regional water storage by removing Scott Dam and Lake Pillsbury. Estimated cost: $500 million. 

Huffman’s plan goes against the interests of the North Coast’s nearly 1 million residents, and runs counter to the Biden-Harris administration’s White House Global Action Plan on Water Security. The report makes clear that the US continues to suffer from inadequate water infrastructure. From the report: 

“Here at home, water crises are becoming more frequent and intense. Historic droughts threaten our supply of water, and failing infrastructure and chronic underinvestment deprive our most vulnerable communities of safe drinking the source of both life and livelihoods, water security is central to human and national security.” 
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We in the North Coast can relate. 

The White House report adds that its 2021 $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill “will invest in water infrastructure…that includes billions of dollars in funding for projects across the country to build new water reuse, efficiency, storage, and conveyance facilities that secure and grow our water supplies.” 

The law directs $550 billion towards projects that will specifically increase water security, storage capacity, and modernization of water infrastructure. We can surmise from Huffman’s stated position that he is not advocating for the North Coast to receive the benefits of these already approved historic federal funds.

When the federal government is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to provide Americans with more water, why would we pay $500 million to have less?

Over the last decade, the North Coast has faced a prolonged regional water crisis. In addition to the nearly $1 billion California has received to date from the Biden infrastructure bill to improve water infrastructure, the state sat on $2.7 billion specifically allocated for water storage development for almost a decade. 

Yet, Representative Huffman intends for us to spend upwards of $500 million to reduce the North Coast’s freshwater storage by 26.2 billion gallons (80,650 Acre Feet) — equal to 9 months and 12 days of water for all 714,420 humans in the district. 

Three key consequences that Huffman’s dam destruction plan does not address: 1) The increased fire risk our residents and firefighters will face due to reduced water availability. 2) The impact on agricultural producers from starving our land of water and aquifer recharge. 3) The economic and environmental costs and health impacts on residents from increasing water and food costs and worsening water scarcity. 

Also missing from Huffman’s project: who will pay the $500 million to fund his destruction of Scott Dam? Taxpayers or ratepayers, it is still us. How does he plan to replace the year-round water supplied by Lake Pillsbury to residents and the new diversion facility – particularly in drought years? Why is he completely disregarding the stated wishes of Lake County, where the lake resides? 

Further, as a result of Sacramento’s housing mandates to all California cities and counties, our region’s demand for water is only going up. How does Jared Huffman square this reality with his plan? How does he square it with the potential $90 million project Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) wants for an emergency water pipeline to the East Bay after Marin “almost ran out of water in 2021”?

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Huffman’s group does not have a plan to address our region’s water insecurity. So far, he is only offering his constituents another government entity to manage the reduction of our water resources and, in all likelihood, more taxes. This sounds an awful lot like the failed SMART train, of which Huffman was the campaign co-chair. 

When it becomes evident that this was a grave mistake for Mendocino and Sonoma Counties, who will be held accountable for such a decision? How will the economic, physical, and mental suffering of Mendocino and Sonoma County’s citizens be compensated for? How will we bring back the lost businesses and how many decades will it take for new storage to be approved, funded, and built? 

Prudence dictates that we build a new water source before we remove our current water source. 

Most can agree that California needs more water storage, even China. So why is Huffman pushing a $500 million plan to reduce our water storage without a solution for our water needs? 

He owes all of us an explanation and a plan. We have the land and historic funding for more water storage. All we are missing is leadership. 

Chris Coulombe, a Veteran running for Congress in California’s 2nd Congressional District. christocongress.com or @christocongress on social media platforms.

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  1. Amen. I’ve been raving till I was blue in the face for years regarding the insanity of removing Lake Pillsbury. There is a couple hundred homes in that basin and businesses and a fire department and a U.S. Forest Service station. As well as thousands of recreational users annually. It also has a lot of historical significance just since the dam was built. It has a 5,000 foot runway for a reason. Lake Pillsbury Ranch, the gated community on the north end of the lake, was started by old Hollywood movie stars and the Rat pack. Go into Soda Creek store and look at the local history. It’s like a museum. I’ve been camping and hunting there since the 70’s. I still go several times every fall for deer season. I don’t know what I would do is that place was gone. Other than just leave California, which I’ve been threatening for years. Lake Pillsbury is a special place. You got my vote.

  2. Don’t ya’ll see? Their solution to the water issue is getting older Californians to move. It’s easier than building a new sustainable water infrastructure.

  3. This is a very well written letter. Common sense dictates the politician wanting to spend our money destroying water storage instead of fixing it is cause for great concern and action by voters. And question the initial water rights… which have never & have been vaguely dismissed. And never published. Potter Valley has a long standing irrigation system for a reason.

  4. Water is not the issue. This state is, has, and will be run by pie eyed miscreants. They only have one equation: Building\keeping dams is conservative (bad) vs. removing dams is progressive ( good). Easy to understand even for the most drug addled county in the nation!

  5. Who will pay? The answer is us, taxpayers, residents. Its always us.
    And, when their mistake is revealed years and years later, who will pay to rebuild the dam? Our children and grandchildren, that is if anyone is left living in the area. I’m with Whoopie who recently proclaimed how tired she was of STUPID people especially the ones WE vote in to make these really gawd awful decisions.

  6. “Why is he completely disregarding the stated wishes of Lake County, where the lake resides?”
    -Lake County being the location of this dam doesn’t mean the locals in anyway control the destiny of the dam. The dam is funded by PG&E along with millions of California utility users. PG&E doesn’t want to support/fund the dam anymore. Lake and Mendo have zero resources to support and/or retrofit the dam to modern standards. It’s no conspiracy when Mendo or Lake counties never really paid the bills to upkeep this dam in the first place. It’s a change in direction from PG&E. Ukiah took advantage of grant money from the state to expand the recycled water systems in Ukiah. I suggest Potter and Redwood valley take advantage of water recycle grants from the state to make their water last longer.

    • The lake and the dam are currently a physical reality, whoever paid for it. Taking it all out, in a time of increasing scarcity, just makes no sense. Apparently, billions and even trillions have already been allocated to address such issues. PG&E is an investor-owned corporation listed on the NYSE, with a problematic history of poor judgement and disasters. The state has a Department of Water Resources and State Water Project to create and maintain such facilities as Lake Pillsbury, which has already been built. This looks like a red-tape hangup, with a bit of favoritism thrown in. That Huffman is on PG&E’s side makes one wonder who he actually represents. No wonder so many now view government with skepticism and disgust.

      • Dams are not one time costs; they are ongoing and eventually need major retrofitting. Who pays for it is more important than you are letting on. Mendo and Lake County are fiscal basket cases and have no resources to spare on such a huge infrastructure project.

    • Potter Valley and Redwood Valley don’t have sewer systems to recycle the water. So how are we going to recycle water when we all have septic?

      • Some areas of Redwood Valley are on district water and some areas are ideal for sewer expansions and in proximity to Ukiah’s already plumbed sewer systems. It would be something to put to the Local Redwood Valley community. Perhaps the tax collector can create a new district for the areas that are on board with a new measure to build a sewer system in their neighborhood. As one area comes online, a new neighborhood can be considered for a new expansion opportunity. Potter Valley really would benefit from the recycled water from Redwood Valley. By this point, a savvy grant writer can obtain grant money from the state to build atop the sewer system in redwood valley and supply recycled water to Potter Valley. Infrastructure is a long game and it won’t happen overnight but is fruitful in the long run and will add value/stability to the area.

  7. I like the questions. I hope we might see a detailed response from Jared Huffman printed here in Mendofever, and wherever else that letter was printed.

    • There was a window when there was the opportunity for IWPC to take control of the project. It required $18 million in studies as a buy in fee. Obviously, Mendocino couldn’t afford it. Sonoma didn’t throw in money.

      So now we are going to all pay $1 billion or more to take down the dams, maybe build new infrastructure, build more storage. PG&E will pass the cost of decommissioning on to ratepayers. They just raised our rates and are already working to get another rate increase next year.

      PG&E is going to file a petition for a variance soon to request cutting off diversions in May except for what they are contracted to send PVID. If and when it is submitted and approved, it means we will see summer curtailments of Russian River diversions in early summer even with a normal-wet year. So even with the dams standing, we will get a preview of what things would be if they didn’t exist

      • Colusa County is getting a large water reservoir with Federal loan dollars. Not sure if this would affect Mendo or Lake County.

          • Can Mendo and Lake water municipalities buy water like LA water districts are doing? Sooner or later the fact of the matter will be Mendo needs to build/fund a more robust water storage and infrastructure system in its community.

            • We could if we could afford it. Sonoma Water sells water for $1000-1300/AF to water districts down there. The districts pump and treat the water, tack on that cost. Flood Control sells water for $68/AF. If we tacked on $1000 AF, no one would buy it. Lake County doesn’t even own the rights to Clear Lake, Yolo county does because they paid for the dm that raises the lake level.

              I agree. We need to invest in more infrastructure and storage. I am pushing for that through the GSA which I am on the board of directors and Redwood Valley County Water District which I am board president.

  8. Adam Gaska and Chris Coulombe are two excellent candidates for 1st District Mendocino County, and California’s 2nd Congressional District. They are experienced, mature candidates who actually take the time to learn about the issues.
    In terms of other candidates for 1st District, I would like to point out that Madeline Cline, (who is backed by some deep pockets here), is a life-long NRA member, who doesn’t believe we should have gun background checks, and that it’s fine for anyone to own a fully automatic weapon, even people with mental programs.
    Even more important, should the Republicans win the Presidency, Congress and the Senate they will guaranteed pass a NATIONWIDE ban on a woman’s right to decide if she wants children. Madeline Cline does not believe in a woman’s right to chose, and is far too right-wing for our community.
    Vote Adam and Chris!

    • “…life-long NRA member,”
      and the problem with that would be???

      “who doesn’t believe we should have gun background checks”
      see 2nd A within the bill of rights.

      “and that it’s fine for anyone to own a fully automatic weapon”
      really?????? or are you perhaps exaggerating just a tad.
      do you even know what one is???

    • As far as Ms. Cline, none of the issues you gave her opinion on are under the preview of the Board of Supervisors and have no bearing on if she would be an effective supervisor or not. Using emotionnally charged national political issues is a personal attack and has no value.
      More important would be her opinions on budget priorities and development in Mendocino County.

  9. Haha, you don’t have $500M dollars to pay to keep your water. Someone else has already paid that amount to take your water…the decision has never been up to the constituents of Mendocino county. If it was, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Start preparing for your new summer droughts now. Oopsie!

  10. After Trump is inaugurated, maybe we can get him to sign an executive order for his first task as president again. Blocking this damn removal and protecting Lake Pillsbury right before they start dynamiting the dam.

  11. Awhile back I read the Lake Pillsbury Dam was old enough to require renovation to current day safety standards; and that potential huge expense is part of why it is scheduled to come down. I am not studying all those details, but wonder if someone might be able to fill in more info. about that?


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MendoFever Staff
MendoFever Staff
Editor's Note: Whenever an article's byline reads "MendoFever Staff", the contents of that article were not composed by any of our reporters. Types of writing that will be attributed to "MendoFever Staff" include press releases, letters to the editor, op-eds, obituaries— essentially writing that is not produced by a reporter.

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