A controversial expansion to Pardee Reservoir in northern Calaveras County is no longer on the table after East Bay Municipal Utility District directors voted last week to drop the project from a long-term water supply plan.
The vote Tuesday represents a major victory for environmental groups that sued three years ago to stop the expansion. The Foothill Conservancy, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and Friends of the River prevailed in a Sacramento County court. EBMUD later released a revised environmental impact report on the plan that projects how the utility will meet its customers’ water demands through 2040.
A new staff recommendation to the EBMUD board called for removal of the Pardee project, and the board signaled its favor for that recommendation in a March 27 public workshop in Oakland.
“We are very happy with the outcome of this long and challenging process,” said Foothill Conservancy President Katherine Evatt. “We’re proud of our foothill communities for coming together to tell EBMUD ‘no’ and to protect the Mokelumne River. We’re glad we filed the suit and saw it through. And we’re grateful to EBMUD for changing course. Their decision is right for the foothills, right for the East Bay, and right for the Mokelumne River.”
Evatt said her organization will now focus on an effort to secure a National Wild and Scenic River designation for the stretch of river popular with fishermen and whitewater rafters “so no one has to go through a process like this on the upper Moke again.”
To meet future water needs, EBMUD will instead begin a joint project with the Contra Costa Water District to expand Los Vaqueros Reservoir in the Bay Area.
EBMUD released a revised draft environmental impact report in December 2011 following a Sacramento County judge’s ruling that a Pardee expansion would have significant, unmitigable impacts on recreational and Miwok cultural uses of the Mokelumne River.
While dozens of Calaveras and Amador county residents spoke out against the Pardee portion of the plan in a series of town hall-style meetings during the past two years, and support for it remained mostly muted, the Calaveras County Water District has expressed interest in continued study of an expansion for purposes of creating additional water storage that could benefit local residents.
“This process worked,” said EBMUD board president John A. Coleman. “We listened, we heard, and we acted. It has always been our intent to do the right thing for our customers and partners to get the best use possible out of this precious resource. Together, we will continue to work cooperatively as a region to solve other tough problems ahead.”