Monday, June 14, 2010

Mendocino County GJ: County water agencies need a joint authority

Ukiah Daily Journal Staff
Updated: 06/14/2010 12:00:16 AM PDT

Consolidation of fragmented districts would form a strong voice in the face of new regulations, demand

The Daily Journal

To strengthen its voice and conservation efforts, Mendocino County should merge its multiple water providers into a joint powers authority (JPA), the county Grand Jury recommended this week.

"The county is at an extreme disadvantage communicating its needs with regulatory agencies because there are many entities with competing interests, voices and territorial disputes," states the GJ report. "There is no centralized governance over the management of water in this county and no one agency speaks for (its) water needs."

According to the report, the Russian River watershed is "is facing a number of legal and regulatory challenges which will question the ownership and management of water coming from Lake Mendocino," which is the major collector and distributor of water for the Russian River.

Due to recent concerns regarding water flow below the Coyote Valley Dam, hearings were chaired by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), and the board plans to begin monitoring frost control management in 2011.

"County water districts lack the funding they need for effective management and capital improvements, (though) each of the small districts has something to offer that could be shared and utilized for the good of county water users."

The different districts and agencies include: Calpella Water District Service Agreement Area; Hopland Public Utility District; Potter Valley Irrigation District; Russian River Food Control District; City of Ukiah Water Service Area; Millview Water District; Redwood Valley Water District; Willow Water District, along with the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, Upper Russian River Sustainability Alliance, and the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, serving as the Mendocino County Water Agency (MCWA).

However, the GJ reports, the MCWA, a special district created by the California State Legislature, "has no water rights and little authority or funding."

The GJ recommends that the MCWA "become more involved (with the numerous water districts) by providing guidance on conservation measure, public training, uniform controls and legislative assistance. The staff must provide leadership in the process of consolidating water districts and/or establishing a JPA."

"The people and agencies of the Mendocino County Russian River watershed resist change because of turf wars amd egos," the GJ continues. "It is only through the effect of environmental lobbies, recent lawsuits and state legislation that agricultural and urban interests have realized the need for realignment of a vision and strategy."

The recent legislation, regulation and "water demand by stronger entities are putting our water supply and economy at risk," the GJ warns. "County residents do not speak with enough authority to safeguard our water supply and our quality of life. Our economic vitality is at risk."

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