On March 13, 2014, El Dorado Water and Power Authority issued a Notice of Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report for what it now calls the “El Dorado Water Reliability Project.” The project as proposed is a second run at El Dorado’s 2008 application to use a “county of origin” water rights reservation to permit storage in reservoirs owned by the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD). El Dorado and SMUD set the stage for the water rights application by signing an agreement in 2005.
CSPA has supported some aspects of El Dorado’s application, particularly El Dorado’s decision to store water in existing dams rather than build new ones. However, we were highly critical of El Dorado’s first draft EIR, which downplayed conditions in the Bay-Delta estuary and suggested that the Bureau of Reclamation could build new dams to offset its loss of water to El Dorado.
In its Notice, El Dorado now proposes to permit 40,000 acre feet a year, but not use most of the water for many decades. Instead, El Dorado proposes to bank water in the ground north of Folsom Reservoir and/or to sell much of the water to parties downstream of the Lower American River, including parties served by the state and federal water projects’ south Delta Pumps.
In comments on the Notice, we ask El Dorado to explain why it is in the public interest to sell “county of origin” water outside the county. We also repeat our recommendation that the County explicitly permit part of its reservation for use as a drought reserve. The necessity of such a reserve became evident this year, when El Dorado Irrigation District briefly reduced streamflows in the Silver Fork American River and Caples Creek for fear of running out of water in the current drought.