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Advocacy groups sue East Bay Municipal Utility District over Pardee expansion

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Posted: Friday, November 20, 2009 12:00 am

Three nonprofit agencies are taking the East Bay Municipal Utility District to court to prevent the proposed expansion of Pardee Reservoir.

The Foothill Conservancy, Friends of the River, and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance filed the lawsuit Thursday in Amador County. EBMUD's board of directors approved the Pardee expansion as part of its 2040 water plan in October.

"We won't let this big, powerful utility destroy more of the Mokelumne. We will do what it takes to protect this special river for communities, people, fish and wildlife," said Chris Wright, executive director of the Foothill Conservancy, in a press release.

The lawsuit seeks to overturn the Environmental Impact Report EBMUD conducted on the expansion. The trio of advocacy groups contend EBMUD didn't fully analyze the environmental impacts that would occur due to the expansion and enlargement of Pardee.

"The project will inundate over a mile of the existing natural Mokelumne River, both a national landmark and a river segment recommended for national wild and scenic designation," attorneys wrote in the lawsuit, a copy of which was given to the News-Sentinel.

The lawsuit contends EBMUD inadequately responded to concerns raised by local communities, public interest groups and government agencies that protect resources.

The suit also alleges that EBMUD violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not adequately analyzing and mitigating the Pardee expansion's impacts on Amador and Calaveras counties.

Pardee Reservoir provides the majority of EBMUD's drinking water for its 1.3 million customers. EBMUD's board of directors voted in October to increase the height of the 345-foot structure by 33 feet. The reservoir is 38 miles northeast of Stockton and can hold 209,950 acre-feet of water.

An EBMUD spokesman said he would not comment until the agency received the lawsuit.

"We haven't received anything yet," said Charles Hardy, senior public affairs representative for EBMUD. "We were told it was coming Monday but we haven't gotten anything in hand."

This is the second lawsuit in Foothill Conservancy's 20-year history. In March of 1998, the Third District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Foothill Conservancy after they sued El Dorado County for approving the Cinnabar project, a 566-lot subdivision covering more than 7,500 acres in El Dorado County.

"We don't like to file lawsuits," Wright said. "There was nothing else we could do."

Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at jordang@lodinews.com.

Overview of the lawsuit

Who: Foothill Conservancy, Friends of the River and California Sportfishing Protection Alliance vs. East Bay Municipal Utility District.

What: The nonprofit groups are suing EBMUD.

Why: EBMUD's board of directors recently approved the 2040 water plan, which includes the expansion of Pardee Reservoir.

What happens now: After EBMUD receives the lawsuit, the two sides will meet in a preliminary settlement hearing. If nothing is resolved, the case will go to court.

News-Sentinel staff

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