The recently published Mountain Democrat editorial “Pipe a Public Safety Priority,” Jan. 20, was extremely disappointing. The article was simply plagiarized from the El Dorado Irrigation District newsletter, The Waterfront, and the author does nothing except spread the exaggerations and false claims that EID would like you to believe.
It is sad to see that my local newspaper appears to have become an EID shill and endorsed a project for which EID has not provided any reliable data or completed the environmental review process. On what, exactly, do they base that opinion? I guess I should not be surprised given that the paper’s long-time editor, Michael Raffety, now sits on the EID board.
This proposed project would pipe a three-mile section of open ditch that runs from Forebay Reservoir to the Gilmore Treatment Facility. The reality is that it faces wide-ranging community objections, will cost ratepayers millions of dollars and fails to meet the stated objectives.
The original, primary purpose of the project, to save 1,300 acre-feet of water annually, is simply not supported by the existing studies, including EID’s own numbers. Members of the EID’s Board of Directors refute the claim of 1,300 acre-feet, which is based on a 1977 claim that has already been successfully refuted in court. So EID has now resorted to fear tactics about contamination of our water supply (a dead skunk, tires, mattresses) to shift our attention away from that shortcoming.
With regard to the water quality issue, there are many miles of open ditch above the upper main ditch and Forebay. Yes, animals could meet their demise and fall in or people could choose to intentionally contaminate any portion of that system. The same is true for the rivers that feed the entire system.
Should we fence off Jenkinson Lake and ban all boating and human contact? Are you aware that the parking lots at Safeway/CVS drain directly down Forebay Road into Forebay Reservoir? I think I’d rather take my chances with a dead skunk once than think about the regular contamination of antifreeze, motor oil and transmission fluid coming from those parking lots. Parking lots that are filled with … you guessed it … tires. None of this will be addressed by piping a three-mile segment of the ditch.
According to the EID Gilmore Road Treatment Facility manager, the piped water will require the same treatment process as it does now. So what are we fixing?
The current situation is a 3-2 vote on the EID board, with those opposed (Greg Prada, Alan Day) pointing to the failure of the proposed project to meet the stated goals and the lack of fiscal responsibility in going forward with it (EID estimates more than $8 million). Those in favor (George Osborne, Raffety, Dale Coco) continue to cherry pick data and utilize fear tactics to justify the project. They do this to make the project eligible for grants, nevermind that the ratepayers will shoulder the greatest burden (more than $5 million by current estimates).
And so you are clear, EID is currently nearly $400 million in debt, not including unfunded pensions and other obligations. That’s about $10,000 per ratepayer — and the debt just keeps growing despite the fact that they have doubled rates in the past 10 years. It always comes down to a 3-2 vote with Prada and Day as the voice of reason and Osborne, Coco and now Raffety (replacing big spender Bill George) recklessly putting us ever deeper in debt. Perhaps a recall vote is in order.
For those of us who live in Pollock Pines this is also a vital firefighting resource. Many of us do not even have fire hydrants. If you were here during the King Fire that risk is plenty clear. The plain truth is that sections of the ditch just above the Forebay were used as the final defense line that saved large portions of our town. That is a fact and I have the videos to prove it.
When they try to illicit fear of a terrorist plot to contaminate our water, please remember that a box of matches is a much more viable threat so I’d prefer to keep an open ditch, which serves as a three-mile “wet line” and source of firefighting water that protects our town over having a pipe that does neither.
I have lived along the ditch for nearly 20 years and walked the trail many hundreds of times. I’ve never found a dead animal, a tire or a mattress. Trout happily swimming, river otters, crawfish, ducks, songbirds, bobcats — those I see. This historical waterway has been here for 160 years and is part of the rich cultural heritage of this district. The local plant and animal life are adapted to its presence. Walk the trail and you will see pacific yew trees, myriad riparian plant species and the animals that rely on them. It is also a recreation resource used and valued by many of our human neighbors.
Finally, are you aware that EID already has water rights well in excess of the county’s need, even when the entire General Plan is fully developed? EID sold more water to Southern California last year than the entire amount that flows through the upper main ditch. They have even referred to the past few years as an “administratively created drought” and encouraged us to “turn on the sprinklers.” So give me a break on the “water supply” issue.
The reality is that the state is trying to strip away our rights to any water gained through water conservation efforts anyway. So remember that they are spending your money, and I’m not opposed to wise use, but this project simply doesn’t meet that standard. If you want more information on what you can do to stop this project from going forward visit savethecanal.info.
Jeff Leddy is a Pollock Pines resident and member of the Save the Canal group.