The East Bay Municipal Utilities District has thrown in the towel and will no longer pursue a plan to raise Pardee Dam. Pardee Dam, which backs up the Mokelumne River in Amador and Calaveras counties, creates Pardee Reservoir, EBMUD’s largest storage reservoir. EBMUD’s decision removes a threat to drown another two or more miles of the Mokelumne. The decision also prevents another increment of diversion that would have reduced inflow to the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta.
The decision follows a successful lawsuit filed in 2009 by CSPA, Friends of the River and the Foothill Conservancy. A favorable ruling on the case in April, 2011 compelled EBMUD to redo the Environmental Impact Report for its Water Supply Management Plan. The new EIR, released on December 6, has taken the controversial dam raise off the table until at least 2040.
In a press release issued December 5, EBMUD stated that a potential new partnership with Contra Costa Water District in sharing costs and benefits at an expanded Los Vaqueros Reservoir was an important impetus for its major policy shift. Los Vaqueros Reservoir is located west of the Delta in Contra Costa County. CSPA and its partners strongly advocated that EBMUD evaluate a Los Vaqueros alternative in its first EIR. In speeches to the EBMUD Board of Directors in 2009, CSPA dismissed past disagreements with CCWD as old history, and called out the convergence of values and interests between the two districts as a huge opportunity. The trial judge cited failure to look at partnership with CCWD on Los Vaqueros as a major flaw in EBMUD’s environmental review.
In addition to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the Environmental Water Caucus and American Whitewater were consistent advocates against raising Pardee. Perhaps decisive was the near unanimous opposition to the dam raise in the counties in which Pardee Reservoir is located. The local opposition included both boards of supervisors, water purveyors, and dozens of individual citizens who packed EBMUD meetings to oppose further expansion of EBMUD facilities. Local opposition was largely organized by Foothill Conservancy, whose operation is centered in Amador County.
Richard Sykes, EBMUD’s recently appointed director of water and natural resources, met on several occasions with opponents of the Pardee raise. Mr. Sykes worked tirelessly to find an alternative that meets the reliability needs of the district while protecting the Mokelumne River. He and his immediate staff deserve considerable credit for breaking the impasse to find a better outcome this time around.