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Local water official aims to create forum for Mokelumne

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Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2004 10:00 pm

Trying to emulate the successful water forum that resulted in a landmark agreement in Sacramento County, a local water official hopes to do the same thing - right on the Mokelumne River.

Gerald Schwartz, Central Valley liaison for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, is trying to get everyone with an interest in the Mokelumne River - from the Delta to the highest elevations in Alpine County - together at one table and try to accommodate everyone's needs.

The idea, Schwartz said, is to collectively develop water storage projects that separate agencies may not have the manpower or money to complete on their own.

"There's hope for all of us," said Schwartz, who represents the agency that uses the Mokelumne River for its urban customers in portions of Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

Schwartz said he is frustrated about the politics involving EBMUD and different San Joaquin County water interests that have prevented substantive water generation projects from getting off the ground over many years.

"We can stop each other from doing something or help each other," Schwartz said. "Maybe we can do something that people have not thought about."

Representatives from at least 16 agencies from sea level to 10,000 feet elevation have gathered several times during the past year, most recently on Thursday, but they haven't agreed yet on whether it would be a worthwhile venture, Schwartz said.

However, the group agreed to meet at least three more times beginning in June.

Local participating agencies include the cities of Lodi and Stockton, Woodbridge Irrigation District, North San Joaquin Water Conservation District, Stockton East Water District, San Joaquin County Farm Bureau along with the county itself.

But also at the table are Calaveras, Amador and Alpine counties, including several water agencies from those counties, plus Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

Schwartz wants to model the collaboration, albeit on a smaller scale, after the Sacramento Water Forum from the 1990s, which hammered out a detailed agreement for use of the American River watershed over a six-and-a-half year period. The Sacramento forum was a coalition of cities, water purveyors, businesses and environmentalists from Sacramento, El Dorado and Placer counties.

Before Schwartz joined EBMUD, the Herald resident represented Galt Irrigation District, which manages well water in rural areas outside the Galt city limits, at Sacramento's Water Forum. He also represented the neighboring Clay and Omochumne-Hartnell water districts and the Sacramento County Farm Bureau in Sacramento.

Lodi Public Works Director Rich Prima, who has attended some of the meetings, said he is concerned about time constraints and how much a collaborative effort might cost Lodi.

"Part of the problem is you can't do everything," Prima said. "We're busy here. It takes a lot of time and effort."

The Mokelumne River meetings were conducted by the Center for Collaborative Process, a group from California State University, Sacramento, and McGeorge School of Law, also in Sacramento.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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