The deal was reached with the Conaway Preservation Group (CPG) and Tri-City Water and Farm. We learn now that the latter company is a subsidiary of AKT Development, the company run by Angelo Tsakopoulos, who the Sacramento Bee reported Wednesday was in talks with Yolo officials over the Conaway Ranch deal.
For Davis, that means your water bill (as opposed to the sewer bill) will increase from about $40 to $90 according to Davis interim city manager Paul Navazio.
Bill Marble, who chairs the Joint Powers Authority along with the mayors of the two Cities, Don Saylor and Art Pimentel, wrote a piece that borders on propaganda and which appeared Wednesday on a rival Davis site.
They write, “If approved by all parties, these agreements would pave the way for the development of a high quality water supply at the most affordable price, and ensure local surface water supplies are reserved for local use, for generations to come.”
How they can consider more than doubling the water rates for local residents to be affordable is a question that they leave unanswered.
They continue, “First, the agreements enable the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency and RD [Reclamation District] 2035 to jointly construct an agriculture-urban water intake facility for operation beginning in 2016. The facility would replace RD 2035’s current, antiquated facility with a state-of-the art fish screen and other environmentally-beneficial enhancements. Costs for facility construction and operation would be fairly shared by agricultural users and the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency. Agriculture, Woodland and Davis residents, and the environment would benefit.”
Moreover, “Second, the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency would acquire very important land easements on the Conaway Ranch at no additional cost. In other words, the rights to build water pipelines from the intake structure to the water treatment facility would be deeded to the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency by CPG. The importance of those easements cannot be understated. In addition, Conaway Ranch acreage would be provided to appropriately mitigate the water supply project, along with other easements that may allow for improved flood protection.”
Finally, “Third, and perhaps most importantly, the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency would acquire permanent water rights from CPG. These water rights are needed to provide water supply during times when diversions of surface water would otherwise be disallowed by the state. Absent the purchase of these water rights, the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency would be required to purchase all summer water on the open market—both now and in the future, at a premium that is expected to become increasingly costly.”
However, there are several key issues that simply have not been addressed in the near delirious optimism expressed in this and other articles.
First, the question is whether these rate hikes, particularly during tough economic times, will work to force people from their homes. Most vulnerable will be seniors and those on fixed incomes.
Second, while the city has now secured summer water rights, we still do not know the state of the water picture after the state takes a more serious look at the Delta in the coming years.
Far from the paving the way to a more certain future as Bill Marble argues, we have large amounts of uncertainties hanging over our heads simply because we do not know what the state will do with the water issue.
There are challenges to our water application that may go forward.
There is also the question about the Delta Flow Criteria. The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance challenged our application arguing that “recent Delta flows are insufficient to support native Delta fishes for today’s habitats.” Moreover, “In order to preserve the attributes of a natural variable system to which native fish species are adapted, many of the criteria developed by the State Water Board are crafted as percentages of natural or unimpaired flows.”
These criteria are as follows: 75% of unimpaired Delta outflow from January through June; 75% of unimpaired Sacramento River inflow from November through June; and 60% of unimpaired San Joaquin River inflow from February through June.
Writes the CSPA, “75% of the unimpaired November through June inflow on the Sacramento needs to be passed through the Delta as outflow to “preserve the attributes of a natural variable system.” At present, the number is as low as 30%, and the April through June period averages 50% of the unimpaired Sacramento River flow.”
The letter continues, “CSPA agrees with your letter of July 16 that the proposed new diversions by Davis, Woodland and U.C. Davis would be area-of-origin diversions. However, there is no evidence that this provides protection to fish and wildlife resources any more than would the standard permit terms. You state on page 2 of your letter: “If there is insufficient water to satisfy all demands, the DWR [Department of Water Resources] and USBR [US Bureau of Reclamation] must either reduce its [sic] 1 exports or increase releases of previously stored SWP [State Water Project] and CVP [Central Valley Project] water over and above the amount required to maintain instream flows in order to support its exports.”
Local officials dismiss the CSPA as a gadfly that challenges water rights throughout the state, but the Delta Flow Criteria Report is something that ought to be taken more seriously.
Third, is the city selling out by cutting a deal with the proverbial devil, in this case Tsakopoulos? Sources familiar with the situation inform the Vanguard that the city is severely underestimating the cost of the surface water project because it is failing to take into account other costs.
Bottom line, the price of water is going way up and staying there. It is more likely that we have underestimated the costs, rather than overestimated them. And the rights we are purchasing seem tenuous at best and we now have to rely on Tsakopoulos to provide us our water.
This is a tough deal to swallow. Glad our leaders our bumping their chests over it.
—David M. Greenwald reporting