By Ross Farrow
In an effort to show state authorities that water districts mean business and plan to actually use the water allocated to them, several water purveyors are negotiating an agreement they hope will salvage 16,000 acre-feet of Mokelumne River water for local use.

The State Water Resources Control Board’s staff has threatened to eliminate the entitlement to nearly all the 20,000 acre-feet allocated to the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District during years of normal to heavy rainfall.

Water Resources’ reason for removing the water right is that North San Joaquin has only had the
equipment to pump 3,000 acre-feet from the Mokelumne Water instead of the full 20,000. Under Water Resources’ staff recommendation, North San Joaquin would continue to have 3,000 acre-feet available, plus another 1,000 acre-feet granted through a Cal-Fed Bay Delta water grant.

North San Joaquin, which wants the water to help replenish the parched groundwater basin in the northeastern part of the county, has appealed the staff decision, which will be heard by the full State Water Resources Control Board on June 21.

With the appeal hearing in mind, North San Joaquin and other water agencies have an idea they hope will salvage the remaining 16,000 acre-feet. In an informal meeting last week, State Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, Kevin Kauffman, general manager of the Stockton East Water District and Dennis Diemer, general manager of the East Bay Municipal Utility District, drew up a draft agreement to share Mokelumne River water, a pact they hope will get the Water Resources’ approval.

The draft agreement calls for EBMUD, which uses Mokelumne River water for domestic use in parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, to allocate up to 20,000 acre-feet during wet years to the Eastern Water Alliance, a coalition made up of the North San Joaquin, Central San Joaquin and Stockton East
water districts.

That is, if the Water Resources Control Board doesn’t remove North San Joaquin’s water Players in the Mokelumne River water game rights.

North San Joaquin Water Conservation District: Serves Lodi generally west to Ham Lane, most of Acampo, Victor, Lockeford and Clements.

Stockton East Water District: Serves parts of Stockton, plus Morada, Linden and adjacent areas.

Eastern Water Alliance: A coalition of three water districts — North San Joaquin, Stockton East and Central San Joaquin Water Conservation District — which meet regarding water issues of mutual interest.

East Bay Municipal Utility District: Has a majority of the water rights to the Mokelumne River. That water flows through Lodi to parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
— News-Sentinel staff

The agreement also calls for EBMUD to actively support developing a mutually beneficial inter-regional project to access the 20,000 acre-feet that would go to the Eastern Water alliance.

In exchange, North San Joaquin and Stockton East water districts would dismiss their protest against EBMUD’s application to extend its water right, and EBMUD would rescind its protest against North San Joaquin’s water right extension.

However, North San Joaquin board members, at a special meeting Tuesday morning, requested some amendments to the draft agreement. One is to make sure North San Joaquin is represented in any meeting that involves that district. Manager Ed Steffani and board members Tuesday said they were unaware of last week’s meeting to draft the agreement and they wish they were included.

“It’s just to get the conversation running,” Gerald Schwarz, EBMUD’s Central Valley liaison, said at Tuesday’s North San Joaquin meeting.

Steffani requested that EBMUD support a proposal to divert Mokelumne River water to Duck Creek, a tributary to the Calaveras River south of Highway 12. The State Water Resources Control Board canceled in March the county’s application to divert water to Duck Creek and build a dam there.

Steffani also requested that EBMUD allow the Eastern Water Alliance collect East Bay’s water from the future Freeport project, which would allow EBMUD to collect water from the Sacramento River during wet years.

“If you add Freeport to this project, (the agreement) is gone,” Jeanne Zolezzi, Stockton East’s attorney, told Steffani at Tuesday’s North San Joaquin meeting. Zolezzi and Karna Harrigfeld, North San Joaquin’s attorney, will develop a new draft agreement. The North San Joaquin board will review it at another special meeting at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Lodi News-Sentinel office, 125 N. Church St.