by Paul Helliker
In a surprise move, the Sonoma County Water Agency has abandoned the Water Project, the new Environmental Impact Report for the project and the Dry Creek bypass pipeline and its request for additional water supplies from Lake Sonoma to meet future needs in Sonoma and Marin Counties. SCWA proposed this major change in direction on August 25, but the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors postponed decision on the request until September 15, to allow SCWA staff to discuss the proposal with the cities and water districts with whom they have contracts to provide the additional water. SCWA staff and three of the Supervisors met with the Water Advisory Committee (composed of MMWD and other retail water suppliers who buy water from SCWA), but failed to definitively answer the questions of the Committee members. As a result, the Committee unanimously adopted a resolution to the Board of Supervisors, asking them to reject the proposal by SCWA staff. The resolution further asked that SCWA work with the retail contractors to revise the 2006 Urban Water Management Plan, so that future decisions about the Water Project and the application for additional water rights could be based on sound analysis.
The reasons for the proposed decision include the claims by SCWA that the Water Project would be too expensive, that it would be inconsistent with the Biological Opinion to protect salmonids in the Russian River, and that it is not necessary, because conservation can reduce future demands and render the Water Project unnecessary. However, no data or documentation was provided by SCWA to support these claims, nor was any substantive alternative plan provided by SCWA to meet documented future water supply needs. Various retail water contractors provided extensive information refuting these claims, and a lawsuit to prevent SCWA from rescinding its application for more water supply from Lake Sonoma was filed by Santa Rosa, North Marin Water District and Valley of the Moon Water District.
Despite the inadequate substantiation of the reasons for the decision, and despite the fact that SCWA has contracts that obligate it to deliver all of the water in its current water right and in its request for additional water supplies, the Board of Supervisors approved the proposed actions on September 15. The County Counsel assured both the Superior Court that heard the lawsuit (which requested a restraining order against SCWA to enjoin them from rescinding the application for more water) and the Board of Supervisors that the County would wait at least thirty days before rescinding its water right application. The retail contractors are currently evaluating their next course of action.
The following articles in the Marin Independent Journal and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat provide more information on this decision: